Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Farm

Title:  The Farm
Author:  Joanne Ramos
Publication Information:  Random House. 2019. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1984853759 / 978-1984853752

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The emergency room is an assault."

Favorite Quote:  "Sometimes a person has no choice but hard choices."

The Farm - Golden Oaks - is a beautiful place set in the Hudson Valley of New York. Its business objective is a conceptually simple one. They market babies. The wealthy come to Golden Oaks seeking a "host" to carry a baby for medical and/or lifestyle reasons. The Farm provides the carefully chosen hosts and then houses and cares for them for then in months of the pregnancy. The amenities are many, but so are the rules, all designed to ensure the "production" of a healthy baby.

The women of this story...

Jane is a single mother and an immigrant with few prospectives for a better future. She joins the Farm as a host for the money to start a better life for her own daughter. At the same time, she leaves behind her daughter in the care of others to carry someone else's child.

Reagan is also a host but with a completely different story than Jane's. At the heart of it, she wants to do good and give someone the gift of a child.

Mae is the director of the farm. To her, this is a business venture and a stepping stone of her career. She is also in a committed relationship and considers starting a family.

Ate is Jane's cousin. What her role in this story is and why slowly emerges.

In alternating perspectives, the book tells the story of the farm. Beyond that, it also tells the story of the challenges women face and the choices mothers make. It should make for a serious, emotional story.

The story is a serious one, but one interesting aspect of this book is that it does not deal with the emotional implications of surrogacy. Most of the emotion in this book comes from these women and the children they already have or dream of having. The emotion is not about the surrogacy itself; that is portrayed as the business deal. The emotion of that is missing. How difficult is it to give up a child that a mother has carried for nine months and felt the pain of delivering? How challenging is it to make the decision to let another carry and birth your child? What are the other implications when surrogacy is chosen not for medical reasons but for convenience and lifestyle? Is it a deliberate choice or missed opportunity in this book to not address these questions? I am not sure but it leaves me wondering.

The most challenging aspect of this book is that throughout the book carries a tone of underlying menace. "An unsettling sense that the Farm is a set piece created for the Client on the other end of Dr. Wilde's wire, and behind its pretty face lies the truth." However, the truth is that the farm is a prosaic business enterprise where the product is babies, the employees are fixed-term, the job requirements are stringent and absolute, and the management is concerned with profits and brands. Some might say that the idea of big business is menace enough. However, the idea that first comes to mind is more of scientific experimentation and a "Big Brother" approach to controlling the "host" mothers. That sense of foreboding and danger never comes to fruition, leaving me wondering what this book was really about.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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