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Damnation Spring

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Damnation Spring

August 2021

DAMNATION SPRING by Ash Davidson is set in 1977 in northern California in a logging town where Rich Gundersen’s family has chopped redwoods for generations. I confess to knowing very little about logging, and the early pages were a bit of an immersive tutorial for me. Yes, we have had trees taken down here at the house, and I know that tree climbing for logging is an art, and dangerous, but here I found myself learning a whole number of new terms while reading more carefully than usual.

Rich and his much younger wife, Colleen, live near Damnation Grove with their young son. There are tall redwoods here, the kinds that will make a company a lot of money. Beyond Damnation Grove, there is another treasure trove: the 24-7 Ridge. Without telling his wife, Rich buys the 24-7 Ridge using all of their savings. After logging it, he hopes to bring his family the financial security that can only be dreamed about. But something else is going on.

For years, the logging company has been spreading herbicides to kill low-lying foliage that would get in the way of the logging process. And the spraying has been anything but exact, so often it is carried around the town. Colleen begins to suspect that perhaps something is awry with these chemicals that have been getting into the water supply, as well as the air. Why are so many women, like herself, having miscarriages? She is a midwife and has very troubling things happen at births. Why are they dealing with bloody noses after spraying happens? As these questions come up, a man from Colleen’s past comes in to test the water, and he is not looked upon kindly. Suddenly there are questions as to what is happening in this community that has people sided against each other. And Rich is wondering just what his investment really will cost.

Ash’s storytelling is propulsive and so well-layered. While she is tackling tough topics, her tone never gets didactic. Characters who you may not think much of play bigger roles as the story takes shape. Secrets are hidden. Families are divided. And big business, as always, takes on a dark role. Since I finished the book, I cannot stop thinking about it. There’s a lot here for a book group to discuss.

Damnation Spring
by Ash Davidson

  • Publication Date: August 3, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 1982144408
  • ISBN-13: 9781982144401