Hope Farm is the story of a girl named Silver coming of age in a commune named Hope after growing up in one communal home after another. She is a self-reliant and mature girl whose mother Ishtar is shamed when people praise her for how mature and tough her daughter is. She knows it a reflection of her own unreliability. Since Silver was born, she has moved from man to man and community to community. Now there are at Hope, a rundown, decrepit farm with a few other residents, most of them dispirited and resigned to eking out a subsistence life.
How did it come to this? We get hints in interstitial chapters from a journal Ishtar wrote describing her parents’ insistence she give up her baby when she became pregnant in high school, her “rescue” by a commune of women. A poor student, without her birth certificate, she is dependent on men and communes, drifting from one to another. Silver never has real security and even at Hope Farm where she begins to imagine the possibility, Silver feels unprotected and afraid of her mother’s newest lover, Miller a loud and self-important wannabe commune leader.
Peggy Frew excels at creating a sense of place, not just in her dscriptions of the natural surroundings, but also of the communes and the suspicious community near Hope. It all feels so real and tangible. Her characters are also well-executed and complex. Even Miller is allowed to be vulnerable and sympathetic while also being a villain in Silver’s eyes. We understand Ishtar and even though her shortcomings as a mother are obvious, we also see her complexity and her deep love for her daughter.
The mother-daughter conflict that is the heart of Hope Farm will break your heart, but it feels so authentic and for that very reason. Sometimes when it is most important for us to understand and communicate is exactly when it is most difficult.
Hope Farm will be released on September 3rd. I received an ARC from the publisher through LibraryThing.