Named a Best Book of 2021 by Newsweek, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times
“A glorious book—an assured novel that’s gorgeously told.” —The New York Times Book Review
“An incredibly moving epic about an unforgettable family.” —CBS Sunday Morning
“[An] absorbing novel…I felt both grateful to have known these people and bereft at the prospect of leaving them behind.” —The Washington Post
A stunning novel about love, work, and marriage that asks how far one family and one community will go to protect their future.
Colleen and Rich Gundersen are raising their young son, Chub, on the rugged California coast. It’s 1977, and life in this Pacific Northwest logging town isn’t what it used to be. For generations, the community has lived and breathed timber; now that way of life is threatened.
Colleen is an amateur midwife. Rich is a tree-topper. It’s a dangerous job that requires him to scale trees hundreds of feet tall—a job that both his father and grandfather died doing. Colleen and Rich want a better life for their son—and they take steps to assure their future. Rich secretly spends their savings on a swath of ancient redwoods. But when Colleen, grieving the loss of a recent pregnancy and desperate to have a second child, challenges the logging company’s use of the herbicides she believes are responsible for the many miscarriages in the community, Colleen and Rich find themselves on opposite sides of a budding conflict. As tensions in the town rise, they threaten the very thing the Gundersens are trying to protect: their family.
Told in prose as clear as a spring-fed creek, Damnation Spring is an intimate, compassionate portrait of a family whose bonds are tested and a community clinging to a vanishing way of life. An extraordinary story of the transcendent, enduring power of love—between husband and wife, mother and child, and longtime neighbors. An essential novel for our times.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Set in the 1970s, Ash Davidson’s gripping novel follows one family’s fight to protect their future and their environment. The coastal California logging town where fourth-generation tree-topper Rich Gundersen and his wife, Colleen, live is facing major changes. While Rich lays down the family’s savings on a swath of ancient redwoods, hoping to make a killing before the industry collapses, Colleen comes to suspect that the multiple miscarriages she and other women have suffered might have been caused by the logging companies’ overuse of herbicides. As Colleen’s investigation butts up against Rich’s get-rich scheme—and their entire community gets drawn into the drama—Davidson explores the conflicts that arise when well-intentioned people have opposing views of what’s best for everyone. Damnation Spring makes us contemplate what’s worth preserving—in nature and in relationships.
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 tale unfolds between 1977 and 1978 and follows the Gundersen family: husband and wife Rich and Colleen; and their kindergartner son, Chub. Rich is a fourth-generation logger who dreams of a less financially burdensome future for his family when, without telling Colleen, he plunks down their savings to buy a ridge near their home in Northern California with a harvestable forest of primordial redwoods. Meanwhile Colleen who has suffered eight miscarriages before and after Chub's birth and who, as the local midwife, has witnessed a disturbing number of defective births is listening to an environmentalist friend's warning that the defoliants used by the timber company that employs Rich are leaching lethal toxins into the local water supply. Davidson mirrors the tension between Rich and Colleen with empathetic descriptions of the struggles of their neighbors, many of whom cling desperately to their jobs in the face of mounting evidence that their duplicitous employer is poisoning them. The depiction of ordinary people trapped by circumstances beyond their control makes for a heart-wrenching modern American tragedy.
Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I did not enjoy this book as much as other reviewers seemed to enjoy it. I love that area and have been there within the past 6 months. It is a poor area, but just beautiful. I think the book reinforced the poverty and the hard life of the region and made it a sad book for me. It was informative and a good story but not a light read. I gave it 3 stars, not because of the writing, but because it was not uplifting for me.