The Farm

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 May 2019

Member Reviews

Golden Oaks. A center for wealthy people to handpick their surrogates and ensure their future children are given only the best food with the best medical care money can buy. The main issue? Golden Oaks can only survive on the suffering of others. They prey on the poorest communities they can find. They hone in on immigrants who are struggling. They offer them life-changing amounts of cash with the promise of heafty (and in some cases eye watering) bonuses should they give birth to a healthy child. 

This is a book about exploitation and what makes it worse is that this doesn’t feel so radically out there that it absolutely could be happening right now. And even with that in mind, The Farm had the premises to be such an amazing book but it just didn’t quite hit the mark for me. The writing is beautiful, but the story jumps around from character to character, those of which added very little to the main story, and left my poor, pathetic brain a little confused as to who I was supposed to be paying attention to.

I just wanted a little more 💜
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I can see this book being part of book clubs as it raises so many interesting themes about a woman's body and her right to do with it what she wishes. The baby-factory where women are paid highly for their wombs is a fascinating idea, but I was getting bored towards the end.
The characters weren't truly engaging and I lost sympathy for them.
I was sad because it had such a great premise.
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Joanne Ramos’s intriguing but flawed debut novel is a colonisation story set inside Golden Oaks, a baby farm in Massachusetts. The Farm may be a 'social issues' book, but it wears the mantle lightly. It is a breezy novel full of types (the Shark, the Dreamer, the Rebel, the Saint), and veers, not always successfully, from earnestness into satire. Joanne Ramos’s characters articulate both sides of the surrogacy argument, however, it lingers indulgently over the trappings of the wealthy, to the point where reading this novel felt a bit like watching several hours of reality-TV.

Hence The Farm isn’t not a critique, but it’s also not an indictment. The novel’s too-neat ending won’t provide satisfying answers.
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I really enjoyed reading the debut novel from Joanne Ramos - The Farm.  It deals with the issue of surrogacy and pushes the limits of what money can buy in a society not far off from our present. 

 It tells the story of young Filipino woman Jane who at the opening of the novel is living in cramped conditions, sharing a room with a number of other women.  In desperation, she signs up to the surrogacy farm - Golden Oaks.  It appears to be idyllic and the situation appear to be ideal however the conditions are incredibly strict.  As a surrogate, Jane has limited rights and the amount of money she ultimately earns from the surrogacy are dependent on a number of conditions being met, including method of birth and the number of rules that she abides by during her pregnancy.  

At the heart of the novel, The Farm explores the limits of what money can buy and the relationship dynamics between different classes in American society.  In it´s very normalcy, it is a terrifying vision of a possible direction our society could take in the future.  

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel and look forward to reading more works of Joanne Ramos in the future.
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From the description of the book, I was expecting a different story. I thought it was going to have more of a dystopian slant to the book. However if I remove my expectations from the book, then I did enjoy the story. Jane is Filipino, and is desperately in need of money for herself and her daughter Mali. She wants to provide a better life for Mali, and this is presented in the form of becoming a host at Golden Oaks. The catch - she won't be able to see her daughter at all during this time. It's worth it for Jane as this will set her and Mali up for life. Is it worth is though? Is professional surrogacy worth signing your life away for 9 months?
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The premise of The Farm sounded fascinating: a place where girls get paid huge sums of money to be surrogates for rich people’s babies. I was really interested in how the ethics of this idea would be explored, and in how the author would present the characters. Sadly, I was a little disappointed. The story itself was interesting enough – each time I took a break from it I was keen to get back to it, but I felt that the detail of the place was never really explored, and the characters motivations (especially those in charge of the facility) were never really explored fully. I was definitely disappointed with the ending, which didn’t really do the characters or the potential of the story justice.
It was easy enough to read, and fairly enjoyable, but it didn’t really explore the idea to its fullest extent for me, and the sticking plaster ending was poor.
I received a free e-copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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The Farm is one of those novels that I kept seeing everywhere – first on Netgalley where I was fortunate enough to receive a digital copy. The central premise is that anything is for sale – for a price. This includes women’s wombs, contracted to carry babies for time poor, cash rich women who are busy running the world. In exchange, they get a contract which includes a 9 month stay in a high end facility where they are waited on hand and foot, and multiple bonuses along the way. At least, that’s one way of looking at it. 

Joanne Ramos is a debut novelist who was born in the Philippines before moving to the US. Her Wikipedia bio tells me that she then graduated from Princeton and worked in investment banking.  This is clear in the characterisations of the women we meet in the book. 

The Farm has three main characters – Jane, Mae and Regan. Jane is born in the Philippines  and is struggling to make ends meet as a single mother to a young daughter. Mae is an investment banker who describes herself as mixed race and is the mastermind of Golden Oaks, the facility where surrogates are taken care of. Reagan is a US based host, born into a privileged family but uncomfortable with that title. 

The story begins with them separately walking their paths, with a particularly well written scene involving a nanny, her infant charge and an ill advised but nearly unavoidable breast feeding episode which made me both gasp out loud and cringe. 
As the novel progresses the women meet, and Jane and Reagan form two halves of a whole while Mae orchestrates. 

It’s interesting to read through and think about, especially with all of the different perspectives. Is it morally wrong to sell/buy space in someone’s womb? If they’re not using it, if someone else needs it, isn’t that okay? How about restricting someone’s choices as a result – what they eat, what they listen to, who they talk to, in the guise of looking after the very valuable unborn baby they’re carrying? 

I enjoyed it and would recommend it, although I get the feeling that Ramos veered away from delving into the big philosophical questions too deeply in return for keeping the narrative going. Some may think it’s too sympathetic to the ‘corporate bad guys’, but actually I felt that it did a good job of showing balance and different view points.
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We follow through the new age genre of female dystopian fiction in this exhilarating text. It follows the pretext of a surrogate mother farm where these women ‘grow’ babies for those who can’t conceive. A very interesting concept with excellent characters
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The Farm is a dystopian thriller.  Young, impoverished, fertile women are enticed to act as surrogates for wealthy women either too busy or too old to bear their own children.  The women are sequestered in a remote complex where their every move is monitored.  This is a world realistic and recognisable, frightening in its detail.  An exciting new voice in fiction.
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This is another brilliant novel that could be described and 'feminist dystopian'. Set in a future not to far from our own - this follows the possibility that women/surrogates can have babies for the rich and wealthy whilst living in a fully functional and yet very oppressive care facility.
This was a brilliantly plausible and realistic view of what could possibly happen in our society, which made it all the more terrifying. 
This was a great read in what genre can be described as 'modern contemporary feminist dystopian/speculative fiction'. for fams of The XX, Suicide Club, Red Clocks and of course The Handmaids Tale.
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I really wanted to enjoy this more than I did, but it just felt something was missing.
The premise is good, a surrogate baby farm catering for the uber rich, yet it took a long time to get going and the ending was unsatisfactory.
I’m glad I read it, but probably wouldn’t choose to read again.
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The plot was certainly an interesting one covering many controversial subject including racism, poverty, surrogacy.  This has been likened to The Hand Maidens tale but it is not really comparable .   It wasn't going anywhere and I got bored reading it but did finish it.  Don't get me wrong it was a light read and quite entertaining and the theory is not so unbelievable but something was missing !!
Reviewed on Amazon
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Thank you for allowing me to read the ARC, I really appreciate it :) I liked the concept and the first half of the book, but the abrupt end to the story and the epilogue felt like the author couldn’t be bothered finishing the story, so I was a bit let down by the ending.
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A disturbing and utterly believable read! Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an advanced reading copy.
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In Joanne Ramos’s unspecified but wholly believable near-future, capitalism has taken the surrogacy industry to its natural conclusion, to places where the outsourcing of gestation and childbirth occurs in luxurious facilities funded by the super-rich. For the surrogates, the fees and bonuses earned can be life-changing. To Golden Oaks, one such “gestational retreat” in upstate New York come Jane, a Filipino single mother, and Reagan, a white college student whose motives are more altruistic than financial. 
The gilded cage of the Farm is well depicted .The women, while cossetted and fussed over, are constantly monitored and spied upon, by a panopticon system redolent of a Victorian prison. There are some brilliantly chilling moments, such as when Regan, undergoing a routine scan, hears the technician talking to her “client” but can neither see nor hear her for herself. 
There are some odd elisions – the impregnation of the Hosts is not depicted at all, miscarriages are alluded to but not described, there are no birth scenes. The ending is problematic: Mae Yu, the machiavellian manager of Golden Oaks, is hurriedly rehabiliated in a manner that I found unconvincing. But there’s much to admire in this dystopian debut.
Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
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The central question here is the concept of value, and the author does a fantastic job of approaching this topic from a variety of angles. Told through the eyes of 3 strong female characters, "The Farm" asks us to consider what we're willing to sell and sacrifice to unlock our dream lives. For each of these women, the answer is exceptionally different, while their dependencies on the capitalist system cause their stories to dovetail in very unexpected ways. 

I've been in a bit of a reading drought in 2019 but "The Farm" pulled me back to the other side (aka reading incessantly at every available free moment!).
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Not the kind of story I enjoy. I am very against exploitation  in an form and this book takes it to the peak. A luxury farm for surrogate mothers is the worst kind of exploitation. I know it is fiction but even the thought of it is abhorrent.
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When I read the blurb for this I was instantly excited: love a good dystopia a la handmaidens tale. Unfortunately the writing style kept bumping me out of the story. No complex sentences meant it read like a Janet and John Book.. many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
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The face of Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman was all over the internet in Spring 2019, mixed up in a college admissions bribery scandal. Huffman’s part was small - an SAT exam - but the wider case was a rabbit’s warren. It’s alleged bribes were paid to entrance administrators. That psychologists intentionally misdiagnosed rich kids with learning disabilities, so they got longer to do exams. It’s even claimed the faces of hopeful students were photoshopped onto athletes’ bodies to get them the top college places reserved for sports stars. 

It was a great story, but the headlines expressed shock. How could these people use their wealth and privilege to cheat their way into a superior education? How could they so blithely skew the system without realising the effect their selfish actions had on the poorer people, the people of colour, the working class whites? Those with better SAT scores, with genuine athletic ability? Those kids who had earned their Ivy League places, but were now pushed out as these privileged brats were nudged to the top of the queue through brazen cheating?

Was it the brazen-ness that was shocking? Because surely the fact of it was not shocking at all? Surely everyone knew that was how the system worked? And in the days that followed the breaking news, inevitable editorials expanded to include the bigger picture, the wider context of how these privileged groups exploited the system in countless other ways; not just at the point of application, but all the way through the college years and beyond. Because of course they do.

Around the same time this scandal hit the headlines, Joanne Ramos’ The Farm was released. It describes a world where the wealthy, privileged few delegate the mess and risk of childbearing onto mainly immigrant women. This isn’t pitched as surrogacy for medical necessity, although that possibility is touched upon, and the line is pleasantly blurred; but more for convenience. It all happens at Golden Oaks, which is run like a luxury health spa. There, the carefully vetted “Hosts” see out their pregnancy in a closely monitored environment; with a controlled diet, exercise regime, health checks etc. Their personal freedom is exchanged for an easy life and the promise of a big pay check on safe delivery of the baby. While Filipinos, like the main character, Jane, are preferred for their “service-oriented” attitude, the most wealthy of clients can opt for “Premium Hosts” like Jane’s roommate Reagan — white, and Ivy League educated.

I was expecting The Farm to be a deeper, darker dystopia. It was pitched as a modern version of The Handmaid’s Tale, so I was braced for it to open a rift in my imagination where a horrific vision of what could be would flood in. Instead, The Farm felt comparatively light. Quite believable. As though it were something we might scroll past on Twitter next week and wonder why the headlines were quite so scandalised, because of course it exists. Of course there’s a baby farm where rich couples exploit desperate immigrant women’s bodies for their convenience. Horrendous, yes, but shocking? 

In the college admissions scandal, some families are accused of paying “a really smart guy” to just sit the entrance exams for their kids completely, so they can carry on their charmed lives uninterrupted. It’s been suggested this pattern continues throughout the education system; that it’s widespread for students to pay others to write their essays for them. As they get those lucrative jobs there will be someone else to prepare their speeches, coach them in phone calls…all the inconvenience of accruing success outsourced. So the fictional characters in The Farm want a different kind of success - the perfect family - but they too want to outsource the inconvenience and continue their lives of luxury uninterrupted.

And that’s where Ramos’ skill lies with The Farm; not by presenting a drastic dystopia, but by sticking so close to our current reality. The world she portrays is uncannily believable, which is all the more unsettling.
She also succeeds in shining light into the many morally grey areas. The owners of Golden Oaks are not the clear-cut antagonists of Atwood’s Gilead. Many chapters are narrated from the centre manager, Mae’s, perspective, which shows her in a slightly sympathetic, if deluded, light. The seeds of the scheme come from the same place that modern surrogacy comes from; a place of medical or social need, and Ramos shows how the managers have let it evolve past that in a way they’ve convinced themselves is acceptable. It is utterly convincing that they almost believe they’re offering the hosts a great deal. And the good guys are not so clear-cut either, as becomes clear as the novel develops.

Even in minor details, Ramos offsets the multiple narrative perspectives to great effect. In one example, Filipino host Jane warns her roommate Reagan not to leave jewellery lying around when the cleaners come. Her try-hard liberal friend is confused, while fellow “Premium Host” Lisa instantly brands Jane a racist. Ramos then revisits the incident from Jane’s perspective: she knows that when rich people carelessly lose valuable things, the cleaners are accused of stealing them.

The downside to Ramos’ painstaking consideration of everyone’s perspective is that she seems unwilling to draw a conclusion, and the end of the book is a let down. On the one hand, lots of loose threads don’t seem to be tied up - promises and threats, both from the characters and the narrative, aren’t followed through. On the other hand, some threads are tied up too neatly. If the point was moral ambiguity, then an ending was inevitably going to be hard to pull off. But there are always multiple sides to every story. Parents who just want to see their kids have the best start in life they can. Teenagers who do as they’re told, are trying to enjoy the summer and are oblivious to the scheming around them. Maybe a man with a family to feed, or a sick dog, or…who knows. At some point though, good intentions aren’t enough: you’ve got to give the story a proper ending.
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The ending to this novel might be one of the most frustratingly perfect endings I've read this year. 

Without spoiling too much, Joanne Ramos has managed to crack my usual dislike for ambiguous endings in The Farm. 

The characters and their interactions always felt real, the story flowed well and kept me interested, when it got going. The scathing social commentary poking at so many aspects of women's lives in society is so timely and hits hard. This is a story about women, for women, that should be read by everyone.

The only mark down I have for this novel is that it did take a while for me to get invested. I definitely put this one down 2 or 3 times before it finally clicked with me and I got hooked.

Thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.
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