Hope Farm is the devestating story about 2 generations of women whose lives have been torn part by neglectful parents. Those two women are Ishtar and Silver – mother and daughter – and it is Ishtar’s story of an unplanned pregnancy, with Silver, that sets their lives on the unconventional paths that they are to follow.
Ishtar, a name she takes on once she joins a commune, is a girl at the beginning of this story, who has discovered that she has accidentally become pregnant. She is living with her Catholic family in the Australia of the early 1980s. They are an average middle class family for whom “doing the right thing” in society’s eyes is the most important outcome, rather than supporting their teenage daughter through the emotional journey of unplanned pregnancy. Ishtar is sent to have the baby at an umarried mothers’ home, but after realising that she is determined to keep her child, she escapes and stumbles into a commune group. It is here that she adopts the name Ishtar, and with their support, gives birth to Silver. This part of the story is interspersed through the later story of Ishtar and Silver, and it is particularly important because, although Ishtar is also a neglectful parent, as readers we know how much she loves and wanted her child.
The rest of the story is that of Silver’s unconventional upbringing, moving from one commune to the next, and is mostly told through her eyes. Her relationship with her mother is her whole world, but the attention that she is given from Ishtar depends on whether Ishtar is in a romantic relationship or not. When Ishtar and Silver arrive at Hope Farm, Silver begins to believe that she has a secure, settled life and as she grows older, she is able to make friendships of her own.
What this novel highlights most of all is the power that adults have over the lives of their children. Adult choices, good and bad, reliable and unreliable, all affect the type of life that a child must be part of, and the most frustrating part of this is that many parents are just people who want life to work out for themselves, but are not necessarily thinking of the consequences for their children. Silver eventually achieves the “normal” life she has been seeking, and with sad irony, it is Ishtar’s original family who provides it for her.