Book Review: The Farm by Joanne Ramos

May 6, 2020 at 5:22 pm


            The Farm by Joanne Ramos is an engaging, suspenseful, and thought-provoking new read. The novel is set-in present-day New York, and centers around a group of diverse and fascinating characters. Jane, a Filipina immigrant living in Queens, is a health aide at a senior center. She lives in a dormitory with her baby daughter Amalia and twelve other Filipina women. Her older cousin Evelyn, whom she calls Ate (big sister in Tagalog,) is a great source of help and support for her. Evelyn is a well sought out baby nurse to the wealthy elite of New York City. When she falls ill, she asks Jane to replace her as a baby nurse for one of her favorite families, the Carters. The Carters are a rich, white family living in Manhattan. At first Jane enjoys the work, but being away from Amalia proves difficult, and ultimately results in her being fired.

            While we meet Jane and Evelyn, we are also introduced to Mae Yu. Mae is an ambitious and successful businesswoman always on the search for her next big venture. Her most lucrative project so far is Golden Oaks- a luxury retreat for pregnant women. The kicker? These pregnant women are actually surrogating for millionaires and billionaires who cannot (or do not want to) carry their own children. They use Golden Oaks to hire and take care of their surrogates. Mae is constantly on the hunt for the perfect surrogates, whom she refers to as hosts. Her clients are some of the wealthiest and most powerful people on earth, and they’d do anything to ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

            When Jane is fired from the Carters’, Evelyn suggests Golden Oaks. She has already given birth once, so she knows she is capable; she will make enough money surrogating to support Amalia and herself for the rest of their lives, and she desperately needs the work. Jane is hesitant at first- Golden Oaks would take her away from her child for almost a year. However, after much thought and deliberation, she decides to leave her daughter in Evelyn’s care for nine months and begins the application process. There are countless tests, both physical and mental, along with an interview with Mae Yu herself. Ultimately Jane is accepted and moves out to Golden Oaks as a pregnant woman.

            Around the time that Jane begins her experience with Golden Oaks, we meet Reagan, who does so as well. Reagan is a white woman living in Brooklyn who is trying to make ends meet without taking money from her father or giving up on her artistic goals. She is a photographer who has spent years ignoring her father’s advice to go to business school or do something “more practical.” She believes that her carrying a baby for another family is a truly selfless act, and while she does need the money, she tells herself she is only doing it to help someone in need.

            Jane and Reagan are assigned as each other’s roommates. Reagan is eager to make friends with Jane but finds it difficult. Jane is reserved, quiet, and nervous. She finds it hard to even connect with or befriend the other Filipina women at Golden Oaks. She is described as “stand-offish” because she is too nervous to try to make friends. It isn’t until Lisa, Reagan’s friend and a third time host at Golden Oaks, gets Jane to open up that she finally sees Reagan as a friend.