The next book to be featured on the Jo Whiley Radio 2 Book Club will be The Farm, by Joanne Ramos. It is released on 7 May and Joanne will be on the show on Monday 13 May.
Bloomsbury have created a fantastic Book Club Kit with everything you need to have a great discussion – including questions, a playlist, and even some healthy Golden Oaks recipes!
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Ambitious businesswoman Mae Yu runs Golden Oaks – a luxury retreat transforming the fertility industry – where women get the very best of everything, so long as they play by the rules.
Jane is a young immigrant in search of a better future. Stuck living in a cramped dorm with her baby daughter and her shrewd aunt Ate, she sees an unmissable chance to change her life. But at what cost?
A brilliant, darkly funny novel that explores the role of luck and merit, class, ambition and sacrifice, The Farm is an unforgettable story about how we live and who truly holds power.
Selection panel review
The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK. Our readers loved The Farm – here are some of their comments:
“I enjoyed this book – a set of women’s stories weaving together as they come into contact with Golden Oaks (or The Farm), where you can sign up to be paid lots of money to be a surrogate for rich folk. There are a lot of interesting ideas in here – is this sort of surrogacy OK? Should you only be allowed if you have a ‘proper reason’ for not carrying your own baby? Who would offer to do something like that and why? What does one do about the inevitable inequality as levels of ‘host’ are created along mainly racial and educational lines – where white, educated hosts command the highest price. I was interested in what happened to the girls, I think this sort of thing is not far off – maybe already exists – and the ethics are worth a thought. The personal stories help you see the potential dilemmas and the atmosphere of the farm – getting more and more paranoid as you are watched – was great.”
“This was a good, if uncomfortable, read. The farm is a place where women go to act as surrogates and have babies for other women. The surrogates are generally down on their luck, often immigrants, and need the money that very rich couples will pay to have a baby this way. Throughout their stay at the farm, their lives are completely controlled to make sure they do everything possible to have a healthy baby. It is thought-provoking about surrogacy of course, but also on whether women can have a career and a family, how the very rich live, the disparity between rich and poor, and what you would do for your child. Also, because Joanne Ramos makes it all seem completely normal, and that is rather chilling.”
“At Golden Oaks the women are given all the best foods and fitness regimes to help them bear the healthiest babies. These women are also emotionally manipulated, as the most important thing is the clients’ happiness. The story moves around a number of the women from Mae who is the head of the institution to Jane who is the main character. Jane has had a healthy daughter of her own and is taken on at Golden Oaks, after messing up a nannying job, at the recommendation of her friend Ate who, unbeknownst to Jane, supplements her income as a scout for Golden Oaks. At the institution Jane’s concern for her daughter, who is being looked after by her friends, causes her to break the rules and she falls into the circle of two other more experienced young women. Plenty to talk about here with the exploitation of women (sometimes by women) and low-paid workers.”
About the author
Joanne Ramos was born in the Philippines and moved to Wisconsin when she was six. She graduated with a BA from Princeton University. After working in investment banking and private-equity investing for several years, she wrote for the Economist as a staff writer. She lives in New York City with her husband and three children. The Farm is her first novel.
Tune in to Jo Whiley’s show on Monday 13 May to hear a live interview with Joanne.
Have you read The Farm? You can share your thoughts with us on Twitter using #TheFarm.You can also see what other readers thought or add the book to your group’s reading list.
Planning to buy The Farm for your group? Buy books from Hive and support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no extra cost to you.