Fans of Elizabeth Strout can assuredly pick up a new novel by her without checking the summary, especially if it’s once again (see what I did there…) about her most interesting character Olive Kitteridge. Told from the perspectives of her fellow townspeople whose lives intersect with hers in a profound way, as well as from her own, it’s reminiscent of Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (way back in the day, but such a classic work), providing nuances not accessible from a single point of view, especially one as focused as Olive’s. Endearing she is not, but fascinating she is, so complex and surprisingly wise, even compassionate, in unexpected ways—Olive has her lovers and haters; no one is on the fence about this lady. This book could stand on its own, though it is definitely buttressed by its predecessor Olive Kitteridge. Unfortunately for OK’s fans, this may be her swan song. Dismayed at the fast forwarding of the latter half of the book, this Dear Reader saw the end coming too soon, losing Strout a precious star. I received a digital copy of this story from one of my favorite authors from the publisher Random House through NetGalley.
Golden Oaks—“the farm”—is run as an elite resort. Hired as surrogates for the 1%, the “guests” receive total care, including spa treatments, top medical care, and gourmet cuisine, in exchange for relinquishing their lives throughout pregnancy. These guests generally are women desperate to fortify their future, women like single mother Jane, a Filipina immigrant, Lisa, a repeat surrogate whose tendency to rebel is countered by her ability to produce beautiful, healthy babies, and Reagan, educated but troubled. Ramos portrays socioeconomic and emotional struggles, and the power of money to buy anything, even a healthy pregnancy, albeit with another woman’s body. There are lies to clients and to surrogates, and minor incidents throughout the story, but no major climax, and the ending seems disconnected. All in all, this story is very close to reality regarding the surrogacy industry, and a representation of injustice, worth the read on class, race, and feminist principles, but not necessarily for simple entertainment. I received a digital copy from the publisher Random House through NetGalley.