At a luxurious secret facility in the Hudson Valley of New York, women who need money bear children for wealthy would-be mothers with no time for pregnancy.
Golden Oaks is a division of a high-end luxury services company that has found a new way to meet the needs of its customer base. The company recruits healthy young women—the Hosts—implants them with fertilized eggs from the Clients, houses and feeds them, manages their pregnancies, and monitors their every move, breath, and heartbeat until delivery, at which point the Host receives a huge payout. The operation is run by Mae Yu, a Chinese-American Harvard Business School graduate whose insatiable ambition and moral turpitude conflict with—and keep winning out over—her sympathy for the women who work for her, mostly nonwhite immigrants. Central among them is Jane, a Filipina with a 6-month-old baby who is financially desperate after losing her job as a nanny. For Jane, Golden Oaks is a godsend, not to mention the nicest place she's ever lived, until she realizes that being separated from her daughter is unbearable. Even though there are many other Filipinas, she feels completely isolated until befriended by her roommate, Reagan McCarthy. Reagan is one of the few who represent "the holy trifecta of Premium Hosts": white, pretty, and cum laude from Duke. Reagan's anomie and desperate need to be of use motivate her as much as the need to be free of her financially controlling father. Lisa, the other white girl at Golden Oaks, is on her third assignment at what she calls "The Farm." She is the only one who sees the exploitative, Orwellian setup for what it is, and her ongoing efforts to game the system eventually lead to big trouble...for Jane. Perhaps the most powerful element of this debut novel by Ramos, who was born in Manila and moved to Wisconsin when she was 6, is its portrait of the world of Filipinas in New York. The three-page soliloquy of instructions for nannying delivered to Jane by her more experienced cousin is a work of art in itself.
Excellent, both as a reproductive dystopian narrative and as a social novel about women and class.