Davidson speaks to my soggy, PNW-born soul. The clarity and empathy with which she writes about a coastal Pacific Northwest logging town and its working-class residents left me feeling as though I had inhabited the world she created. Damnation Spring is a spectacular debut that will take a well-earned place in the pantheon of PNW and environmental classics. Recommended By Emily B., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Pitch perfect...an unforgettable portrait of the very real consequences that environmental decay can hold, for nature and humanity alike." VOGUE.com
"So absorbing is Damnation Spring, so rich with the atmosphere of a time and a place, that when I laid the book down it was hard not to look around my living room and wonder where the redwoods had gone. What impresses me the most about Ash Davidson and her writing is how deeply she understands her characters, and how sharply she has observed their world, yet how little fuss she makes about it. There's not an ounce of ego on display here, which means that it's never the singer you hear, always the song. And the song, in this case, is magnificent." Kevin Brockmeier, author of The Ghost Variations and The Brief History of the Dead
"Damnation Spring is that wonderful evocation of a world so complete you can't believe it's fiction, each character and moment drawn with precision and heart. Davidson crafts a portrait of a marriage inside a portrait of a town inside a portrait of an industry, refracting the consequences of capitalism through people's lives and bodies. A masterful and sensitive explication of how humans are part of their environment no less than trees, mud, other animals, and water, this novel takes place forty years ago but could not be more relevant. If you want to know how we came to find ourselves amid an extinction event, or you need a gripping escape from considering the same, read this book." Merritt Tierce, author of Love Me Back
"In her astonishingly accomplished first novel, Ash Davidson reminds us that we are never more profoundly shaped by our environment than when we destroy it. Nearly every page left me in awe." Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
"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.” BookPage (Starred Review)
"A strong work of climate fiction…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 (Starred Review)
About the Author
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.