*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Farm
Author: Joanne Ramos
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Welcome to Golden Oaks, the next big thing in the fertility economy. Backed by a multibillion-dollar conglomerate, “The Farm” is fitted with every amenity for the surrogates who have come to bring the babies of the very rich to term: doctors, nutritionists, fitness instructors and coordinators who monitor every detail of their day-to-day existence. In return, these “hosts” offer a nine-month lease on their bodies for the opportunity to earn “big money” that will change the trajectory of their often difficult lives–as long as they stay out of trouble and deliver healthy babies. As the intersecting lives of these women play out against the backdrop of the rural Hudson Valley, the lavish homes of the One Percent, and the crowded dormitory in Queens where immigrant service workers rent beds by the half day, the novel calls into question a woman’s agency over her body, and, ultimately, illuminates the tradeoffs women will make to fortify their futures, and the futures of those they love.
The Farm is quite an interesting genre combo of almost dystopian, but more speculative, contemporary, literary fiction. I was sucked in by the description immediately. It’s right up my alley of the sort of speculative futuristic fiction that I enjoy reading. The concept: women are hired to work as surrogates, facilitating the gestation and birth of the infants of the world’s elite. Golden Oaks is the place they call home, a comfortable, spa-like, sprawling acreage that provides them with the top nutrition and all the amenities that one could hope for in a luxury hotel. Highlighted throughout is the disparity between the demographics of hosts and how hosts of certain skin colour, education, and wealth are considered premium over others. Golden Oaks boasts equal treatment of all its hosts, but as the novel progresses, the truths and the lies are exposed to both the characters and the readers.
I would say the description of this book as a “dystopian” novel is a bit of a stretch. It’s not far along from our own reality and quite easily imaginable. Surrogacy is already a frequently occurrence in our society. No, The Farm more so addresses the struggle surrounding the corporate regime and those it hires than a society versus a governing body or an individual versus a society. It looks at themes of family, friendship, ambition, wealth, gender, and loss. There isn’t that sense of fear or impending doom that generally accompanies a novel labelled as dystopian. It’s more a musing on what could very easily happen in our own society–and it’s not all bad. The concept, in theory, in not an inherently bad one, if participants took part of their own free will and were treated equally and fairly.
Some of the characters are beyond frustrating, but they are all suffering and struggling in their own way. Each character has their own goals and dreams, and faces their own fair share of judgement by others. They are all simply human and brought into their situations through ongoing circumstances and misfortunes. Race discrimination and wealth disparity is at the forefront of the story, drawing attention to the many issues that have and continue to plague society. This book is a snapshot of the moral and ethical issues that surround big corporations and excessive wealth and privilege.
Number one takeaway: don’t go into this thinking you’re getting the next great work of dystopian fiction. It’s more of an interesting conceptual musing on the state of gender and racial rights in America and the great divide between the average person and the 1%. It’s very engaging and interesting in the topics and concepts it does explore, but advertising of this book is a bit misleading.
I, for one, did enjoy The Farm quite a lot. I hope you will as well. It’s certainly got a lot to say and it does so through an engaging plot, tangible characters, and a setting that’s not so distant from our own reality.