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Friday, March 8, 2019

REVIEW: The Farm by Joanne Ramos

The Farm 
by Joanne Ramos

Thank you to Random House for this advanced copy.

Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: May 7, 2019
336 Pages
Genre: Fiction

Nestled in the Hudson Valley is a sumptuous retreat boasting every amenity: organic meals, private fitness trainers, daily massages--and all of it for free. In fact, you get paid big money--more than you've ever dreamed of--to spend a few seasons in this luxurious locale. The catch? For nine months, you belong to the Farm. You cannot leave the grounds; your every move is monitored. Your former life will seem a world away as you dedicate yourself to the all-consuming task of producing the perfect baby for your ├╝berwealthy clients.

Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines and a struggling single mother, is thrilled to make it through the highly competitive Host selection process at the Farm. But now pregnant, fragile, consumed with worry for her own young daughter's well-being, Jane grows desperate to reconnect with her life outside. Yet she cannot leave the Farm or she will lose the life-changing fee she'll receive on delivery--or worse.

Heartbreaking, suspenseful, provocative, The Farm pushes our thinking on motherhood, money, and merit to the extremes, and raises crucial questions about the trade-offs women will make to fortify their futures and the futures of those they love.

My Review:

Unlike books such as The Handmaid's Tale where "surrogates" are used to help continue the human population at a horrid price to the Handmaid's, The Farm gives immigrants and those who need money a chance to be a surrogate for those who have the finances to have a baby through them - either because they cannot have one of their own, don't want to "wreck" their own bodies or are paying top dollar for those surrogates who are educated, test well, have high percentage of carrying to term and have passed the vigorous application process.  As if the Host's own genes will play some part in the implantation and vibrant being of this new baby.  The catch, and there always is one, is that they are sequestered off to Golden Oaks for the duration of their pregnancy and have to abide by certain rules.

This story revolves mostly around Jane, who leaves her own young daughter behind with the thought that in the long run, they will both be better off with the money that she makes to set up a better future.  We also get introduced to Reagan and Lisa, two other Hosts at the Farm that make an impact on Jane.  Rounding out this cast is Mae - who works for the company and as such can be manipulative to make sure things run as smoothly as possible, and Ate, Jane's aunt who suggested this process and is taking care of Jane's daughter in the interim.  

Ok, guys, I love this idea and I really wanted to love this book but it didn't quite work for me.  I think I expected more manipulation and horror than I got - and I know, I know, it's already a horror show when it comes to women's bodies.  I guess I was just expecting something.... more... from the story.  There is a bit of an undertone through the book that suggests worse things are coming but yet we never get there.  The classism and manipulation of the wealthy to the poor is fairly well sorted out and we do get the sense of doing what women need to do and the hard choices that are made as mothers, immigrants, poor women... but it doesn't quite hit the mark fully.  The potential is there but the execution, for me, was a bit lacking.

I also was a bit confused how we get to a certain point at the end of the book and then boom, we're now three years in the future and um... what? Not as seamless as it could've been.  The subject matter is definitely a timely one.  However, I felt I was going into this read on a more dangerous baby making farm type of read and instead I received something wholly different.


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