|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 überwealthy 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.
Should You read The Farm by Joanne Ramos?
“You should not raise them to be too tender, like little lambs. Small lambs, soft lambs—they make the best meat; they are always devoured.”
In Joanne Ramos’ The Farm, we see women give up everything in their lives including their children, a relationship or a relative, to become surrogates for wealthy clients. They spend nine months in a gorgeous locale, The Farm, cared and pampered throughout their stay. They are paid monthly and receive a hefty bonus after successful delivery. Sounds like a place where dreams come true, for evryone? Well, you’re wrong.
The story begins with Jane who’s looking for her cousin Ate in a hospital. Ate is a nurse- a baby nurse- to be specific and her age prevents her from earning a living as a baby nurse. Ate suggests Jane replace her because she needs the money as she’s a single mother who’s struggling to make ends meet. Unfortunately, she’s forced to leave because of an unfortunate incident at her job as a baby nurse. Soon, Jane finds hope in the promise of The Farm and leaves her baby in the care of her cousin, Ate. Again, what could go wrong? As it’ll turn out, a lot.
Next, we are introduced to Mae and then Reagan. Mae is the woman who designed the surrogacy program. Through Mae’s introduction, we get to know a bit about how the idea for the Farm came about and Mae’s latest client acquisition, a Chinese millionaire called Madame Deng, whose investment will bring millions to The Farm. Then, we meet Reagan, another potential host who unlike most other hosts is rich with an ivy league college degree.
“Reagan laughs, surprising herself. It isn’t funny, but it is. It’s all completely ridiculous: three pregnant women carrying other people’s babies talking about second-trimester sex pangs and trying to guess which one of them harbours a billionaire’s fetus.“
Let’s come back to Jane again. As Jane is selected as a host in the Farm, Jane becomes pregnant through artificial insemination. Jane follows the rules but soon trouble ensues when she is befriended by another host Lisa. After yet another unfortunate incident, Lisa is spared because of her clients but Jane is punished as Mae informs her that her daughter’s upcoming visit will be canceled. As Jane meets more Filipina hosts, she encounters someone who knows her cousin Ate and that shouldn’t have been a big deal ..but Jane discovers other things that lead to other troubles at The Farm. Now, why is Jane such a big deal in The Farm? What’s going on with Ate? Why has she and Reagan been allowed to meet their “real” clients yet?
“Because in America you only have to know how to make money. Money buys everything else.”
As you can probably guess from my explanation, Jane maybe presents the most throughout the entire story but there are multiple POVs. We hear from Ate, Mae, and Reagan. It’s not at all confusing but manages to give us a clear picture of The Farm, its purpose, and its implications. It did remind me a bit of The Handmaid’s Tale but it was unique on its own. Surrogacy isn’t new but in this story, it is like a currency..the hosts’ bodies(the surrogates) are commodities and they’re in a place where their every move is watched. There are lots of places where you’ll say “What the F*ck” without any hesitation. For example, Mae states that some clients look specifically for black or Asian hosts(even better if they’ve high IQ or are highly educated) while others will look for white and of course, an ivy league educated as if their wombs will magically transfer those qualities to the clients’ baby. There are also ethical issues at play here; for example, when a clients baby is genetically tested and found to have Trisomy-21(the gene for Down’s Syndrome), Mae and the head doctor discusses abortion and ways to protect the company…when the company’s policy to use their best efforts to ensure the wellbeing of the unborn child.
I read the second half of the book in one sitting and I was hooked into the plot which was getting terrifying with every chapter but the ending was a bit unexpected. I hoped to be shocked, gasp in horror..but no, I didn’t.
Overall, I highly recommend The Farm because it tackles important themes like racial inequality, immigration, motherhood, and freedom among other things. It is sharp, witty(at times) and controversial; all of which made this a wonderful debut and I can’t wait to read more of Joanne Ramos’ works.
|Thanks to the publisher for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.|
|About the Author: You can find Joanne Ramos here|
What do you think? Will you ever be able to do what Jane, Reagan and other hosts did? Would you like to work in someplace similar to The Farm? If you plan to read The Farm by Joanne Ramos, then let me know in the comments below! As usual, if you have read it already, then let me know your thoughts below.