Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 464 pages
Audiobook Length: 15 hours and 39 minutes
First Published: 2021
For generations, Rich Gunderson’s family has logged the redwood forest on California’s coast and he jumps at the chance to buy a virgin Redwood grove for logging. After a streak of miscarriages, his wife Colleen begins to wonder if there’s something in the water. As Colleen investigates the environmental impacts of logging, her search for answers might tear her marriage, and the town, apart.
Damnation Spring is a long slow build that dragged at times with prose overloaded technical logging language. I will admit, I was annoyed that one major plot point was so briefly mentioned that I completely missed it and had to go back to double-check that it was even there. (It was given two sentences in a rather confusing scene).
The conflict between the logging industry and conservationists made for a great premise, and you really feel for Rich and Colleen. Although I thought it was a pretty solid story, the narrative was so slow that you really have to push through a lot of “meh” to get to the decent ending.
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 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.
About Ash Davidson
Ash Davidson is the author of Damnation Spring. She currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. Visit the author’s website →