An epic, immersive debut, Damnation Spring is the deeply human story of a Pacific Northwest logging town wrenched in two by a mystery that threatens to derail its way of life.
For generations, Rich Gundersen's family has chopped a...Read More
For generations, Rich Gundersen's family has chopped a livelihood out of the redwood forest along California's rugged coast. Now Rich and his wife, Colleen, are raising their own young son near Damnation Grove, a swath of ancient redwoods on which Rich's employer, Sanderson Timber Co., plans to make a killing. In 1977, with most of the forest cleared or protected, a grove like Damnation - and beyond it 24-7 Ridge - is a logger's dream.
It's dangerous work. Rich has already lived decades longer than his father, killed on the job. Rich wants better for his son, Chub, so when the opportunity arises to buy 24-7 Ridge - costing them all the savings they've squirreled away for their growing family - he grabs it, unbeknownst to Colleen. Because the reality is their family isn't growing; Colleen has lost several pregnancies. And she isn't alone. As a midwife, Colleen has seen it with her own eyes.
For decades, the herbicides the logging company uses were considered harmless. But Colleen is no longer so sure. What if these miscarriages aren't isolated strokes of bad luck? As mudslides take out clear-cut hillsides and salmon vanish from creeks, her search for answers threatens to unravel not just Rich's plans for the 24-7, but their marriage too, dividing a town that lives and dies on timber along the way.
Told from the perspectives of Rich, Colleen, and Chub, in prose as clear as a spring-fed creek, this intimate, compassionate portrait of a community clinging to a vanishing way of life amid the perils of environmental degradation makes Damnation Spring an essential novel for our time.
Ash Davidson was born in Arcata, California, and attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her work has been supported by the Arizona Commission on the Arts and MacDowell. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.
"A glorious book--an assured novel that's gorgeously told... Redwoods have been plundered by humans, damaged in fires and taken down in floods, but they're also incredibly resilient. And as characters in Davidson's graceful rendering remind us, humans are equally resilient. After great loss, they, too, can keep growing." - The New York Times Book Review
"[This] story runs as clear as the mountain streams that draw salmon back to spawn... Damnation Spring joins Richard Powers's Overstory and Annie Proulx's Barkskins in a growing collection of epic novels about our interactions with trees." - The Washington Post
"Pitch perfect...an unforgettable portrait of the very real consequences that environmental decay can hold, for nature and humanity alike." - VOGUE.com
"[An] astonishingly polished and immensely affecting debut novel... What makes Damnation Spring such a knockout -- and so devastating to stomach -- is Davidson's mature grasp of the precarity of life and the complexities of the human condition. It's the Gundersons' fierce love for each other and unwavering resilience despite multiple betrayals and near unshakeable losses that transform the book from a treatise on the dangers of an unfettered industrial complex and the impacts of climate change into a prescient and deeply felt novel about (mostly) good people just doing their best to survive." - San Francisco Chronicle
"If you're jonesing for a big family saga, Ash Davidson's debut will do the trick. Damnation Spring tackles major issues with authentic rage and grief." - LA Times
"[An] ambitious, assured debut...a devastating page-turner with a love story at its center." - LitHub
"There is so much that is right and particular about this novel. Rarely will a reader have such a tactile experience of life in a forest logging community as one receives here. Davidson also sensitively portrays the fraught relationship between the Indigenous tribe of Yuroks and the white members of the logging community. Here, all politics are local: It slowly dawns on Colleen that herbicides, sprayed to help the logging industry, hurt babies; and the unethical owner of the timber company is a flawed and greedy local guy, not a corporate mover on Wall Street. Davidson was born in Arcata, California, just south of the redwood forest she writes about in Damnation Spring. She's studied the lay of the land, and she expresses the heart and soul of this place and time." - BookPage
"As thoughtfully as Davidson establishes these dilemmas, she's equally skilled at writing an outdoorsy adventure novel, in which logging threatens the lives of workers with snapped cables and everybody else via landslides. Thematically, it's a strong work of climate fiction, but it's rooted in age-old man-versus-nature storytelling. An impressively well-turned story about how environmental damage creeps into our bodies, psyches, and economies." - Kirkus
"Davidson's impressive debut chronicles life in a working-class community so thoroughly that the reader feels the characters' anguish as they're divided over environmental concerns that threaten their lives and livelihoods....The depiction of ordinary people trapped by circumstances beyond their control makes for a heart-wrenching modern American tragedy." - Publisher's Weekly
"Well-researched...this lengthy novel spans just one year over four decades ago--the summer of 1977 to the summer of 1978--but it couldn't be more relevant today." - The Daily Beast
"Struggles and heartbreaks play out on the richly rendered backdrop of a community on the brink of major change." - Booklist