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Damnation Spring

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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 th 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. Colleen, desperate to have a second baby, challenges the logging company’s use of herbicides that she believes are responsible for the many miscarriages in the community—including her own. Colleen and Rich find themselves on opposite sides of a budding conflict that threatens the very thing they 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.


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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 th 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. Colleen, desperate to have a second baby, challenges the logging company’s use of herbicides that she believes are responsible for the many miscarriages in the community—including her own. Colleen and Rich find themselves on opposite sides of a budding conflict that threatens the very thing they 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.

30 review for Damnation Spring

  1. 5 out of 5

    Yun

    At first glance, Damnation Spring seems to be exactly the sort of book I would enjoy. The premise is amazing and so is the setting. But the story takes so long to get going and is so bogged down by technical logging jargon that I lost patience with it. Rich is a fourth generation logger making a living out of felling trees in California's redwood forest in the 1970s. When the opportunity comes to own a grove nearby with the biggest tree of them all, it's hard to pass up. Meanwhile, his wife Colle At first glance, Damnation Spring seems to be exactly the sort of book I would enjoy. The premise is amazing and so is the setting. But the story takes so long to get going and is so bogged down by technical logging jargon that I lost patience with it. Rich is a fourth generation logger making a living out of felling trees in California's redwood forest in the 1970s. When the opportunity comes to own a grove nearby with the biggest tree of them all, it's hard to pass up. Meanwhile, his wife Colleen desperately wants another child, but is heartsick after multiple miscarriages. And she isn't alone, knowing many women nearby who have had similar misfortunes. But is it just bad luck, or is something going on in this town where herbicide is sprayed abundantly and frequently? Yes, I'm totally on board with this premise. Give me beautiful scenery, hardworking folks, and tight-knit communities any day. It's also an interesting period of our history, heralding in the awakening of a collective conscience towards our environment, with citizens starting to realize that we could not just raze to the ground with impunity our natural resources and somehow not face the consequences. But I knew almost from page one that this was going to be a slog. The book is filled with logging descriptions, technical terms, equipment details, and slang, all used without any explanations to make it easier for the reader. Even the simplest logging terms took me a long time to figure out. (Apparently "pumpkins" are trees, not actually pumpkins, sigh.) The narrative is mostly alternating between Rich and Colleen, and I started to dread Rich's turns, where it seems half of his pages are filled with the intricate details of his logging job. The part of the blurb that most caught my eye is Colleen's story where she tries to figure out what is happening to her community. But the pace is so glacial that she doesn't even put two and two together until halfway through the book. And it isn't until the last 100 pages that much happens. In a 450 page book, that means the first 350 pages was a total grind. It doesn't help that, other than Rich and Colleen, most of the characters in here are unlikable. This took me by surprise, for a book supposedly about the working-class experience, to paint most of these people so unfavorably. And there were so many characters in here, dropping in and out of the story without proper introductions, so I feel like I'm constantly stumbling along trying to figure out who each person is. I had such high expectations for this book going in. But the glacial pace, logging jargon, and huge cast of characters all contributed to my sense of constant bewilderment, like I didn't know what was going on. Often, I resorted to guessing and rereading paragraphs over and over for any grasp of understanding. It's hard to rate a book higher than 3 stars when I'm not sure I understood half of it. My heartfelt thanks for the advance copy that was provided for my honest and unbiased review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    My two stars are for the first 41 chapters— This is a book I paid for but it didn’t work out well for me. I usually don’t bother writing reviews for books I didn’t finish — But I feel I have a reason to explain my low review for this book. This debut has been getting high reviews both professionally and from many of us amateurs. It sounded great, to me too, so that’s why I purchased it. My two star rating is solely based on the overly descriptive writing. I understand that descriptive writing, s My two stars are for the first 41 chapters— This is a book I paid for but it didn’t work out well for me. I usually don’t bother writing reviews for books I didn’t finish — But I feel I have a reason to explain my low review for this book. This debut has been getting high reviews both professionally and from many of us amateurs. It sounded great, to me too, so that’s why I purchased it. My two star rating is solely based on the overly descriptive writing. I understand that descriptive writing, scrambling eggs, making pancakes,, a wagon on the front porch, breathing in the flowery air, opening drawers, a cross-stitch hanging from the kitchen window… etc adds to the experience of realistic living —- I’m not usually a reader that gets offended by descriptions— it’s not something that I notice as it being annoying —- But I couldn’t take it any longer — I was terribly annoyed….so I’m not going to finish it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    He pictured the 24-7 tree herself: a monster, grown even wider now than the twenty-four feet, seven inches that originally earned her the name, three hundred seventy feet high, the tallest of the scruff of old-growth redwoods left along the top of 24-7 Ridge. He’d circled that tree every morning for the last thirty-five years, figuring the best way to fall her, but it had always been just a story he’d told himself, like his father before him, and his granddad before that. Someday, Rich rememb He pictured the 24-7 tree herself: a monster, grown even wider now than the twenty-four feet, seven inches that originally earned her the name, three hundred seventy feet high, the tallest of the scruff of old-growth redwoods left along the top of 24-7 Ridge. He’d circled that tree every morning for the last thirty-five years, figuring the best way to fall her, but it had always been just a story he’d told himself, like his father before him, and his granddad before that. Someday, Rich remembered his father saying. As a boy, it had seemed possible, though generations of Gundersens had died with the word on their breath. -------------------------------------- “The real timber’s gone,” Lark said. “What’s left, ten percent, including the parks? Two thousand years to grow a forest, a hundred years to fall it. No plague like man.” It’s 1977 in Klamath, California. Redwood country. Rich Gunderson has rolled the dice. He staked all the money he and his wife, Colleen, have been saving to buy a once-in-a-lifetime piece of property, the 24-7, over seven hundred acres of old growth forest, ripe for logging. But he needs the Sanderson Timber Co., which he has been working for all his life, to build a road close enough to it that he can get the logs out. It seems likely to happen, given that Sanderson is currently logging adjacent parcels. But when a skull is found, all work is halted until it can be determined whether the logging will be allowed to continue. A halt could mean the difference between making back his investment and having land of his own, a place on which he and his family can live, with a nice bit of cash beside, and losing everything. The pilot had followed the coastline, turning inland at Diving Board Rock. It was Rich’s first and only ¬bird’s-eye view of his life: the small green house with its white shutters set back on the bluff at the foot of Bald Hill, the cedar-¬shingle tank shed. The plane’s ¬engine noise buzzed inside his chest, a hundred McCulloch chainsaws revving at once. They’d flown over 24-7 Ridge, the big tree herself lit by an errant ray of sun, glowing orange, bright as a torch, and, for an instant, Rich had caught a glimmer of the inholding’s potential—an island of private land in a sea of company forest. They’d flown over the dark waves of big pumpkins in Damnation Grove—redwoods older than the United States of America, saplings when Christ was born. Then came the patchwork of clear-cuts, like mange on a dog, timber felled and bucked and debarked, trucked to the mill, sawed into lumber, sent off to the kilns to be dried. The pilot had flipped a switch and spray had drifted out behind them in a long pennant—taste of chlorine, whiff of diesel—Rich’s heart soaring. Ash Davidson - Image from the Grand Canyon Trust He and Colleen have suffered some serious losses already. They have a five-year-old son, Chub, who is about to start Kindergarten. But they had hoped for a larger brood. Colleen, only thirty-four, has just suffered her eighth miscarriage. Rich does not want for them to go through that again, so is keeping his distance, frustrating Colleen, who is eager to keep trying. He does not keep his distance from this land, however. Carrying on the tradition of his father and grandfather before him, Rich is a high climber, a particularly perilous specialty in an already dangerous line of work. He is very fortunate to have lasted longer than his forebears, surviving into his fifties. Bunyonesque at over six feet six inches, Rich is a gentle giant, determined to take care of his family. But how he can go about doing that is becoming complicated. He remembers his father taking him up to the 24-7, and pointing out the biggest, (There she is. Twenty-four feet, seven inches across. Someday, you and me are going to fall that tree.) a lifetime ago, when his father had just turned thirty. A high rigger - using just his rope and spiked boots, he must climb the tree sawing off tree limbs as he goes - image and descriptive text from the Washington Historical Society Colleen works as a midwife. Hers are not the only reproductive anomalies in the area. Miscarriages are rampant, as are birth defects. One woman she had been helping gave birth to a baby that was anencephalic. In the Library Journal interview, Davidson talks about her inspiration for the book. My family lived in Klamath, California, where the book is set. My parents weren’t loggers—my mom taught school, my dad did carpentry work. But they did rely on a nearby creek for drinking water, similar to Rich and Colleen's setup in the book, and became so concerned about herbicide contamination in that creek that they stopped drinking from our tap. Still today, not one of us does. I was three when we left Klamath, but I grew up hearing stories about our life there. I’d always wondered: what were those herbicides? - from the Shelf Awareness interviewDaniel Bywater was raised locally. An erstwhile classmate and an old flame of Colleen’s, he is back in the area, doing a postdoc in fisheries biology, testing the water to see what might be causing the significant reduction in fish life. It is pretty clear that the cause is the toxic chemicals that Sanderson sprays relentlessly in the area, making sure the logging roads do not get overgrown, and access to the to-be-logged trees is uninhibited. With the prompt of Daniel, Colleen begins to see that the environment in which she lives may be a factor in her difficulties carrying a baby to term. The Gundersons get their water directly from Damnation Creek. Redwoods - image from homestratosphere.com The conflict is set. Sanderson, eager to fend off any attempts to prevent them from clear-cutting the lands they control, versus those concerned with the health and safety of the people living and working in the area, and the carnage being wreaked on the local eco-system. The company is not above using bribery, blackballing, physical intimidation, and worse to control the allowable debate. People are struggling. Deer Creek has dried up. It is probably wise to head indoors when the far-too-frequent company chopper passes overhead spraying something that smells of chlorine. Folks live in single-wides or rent houses they used to own, now property of the government on a 25 year lease, after they were eminent-domained for parkland. Pay has been shifted from production based to a daily rate. Not an idyllic existence It would be an easy thing to present the company as pure evil (well, it pretty much is here, so scratch that), and the locals who support cutting-uber-alles as ignorant rubes. Some are, and there are those who are willfully ignorant, and willing to go to dark extremes to protect their personal fortunes, but Davidson has offered instead a very close look at the crux of the conflict. Can you really expect people who, for generations, have known only one way of living, to welcome outsiders telling them that they can no longer continue to work the jobs they have worked for decades, to live the way they have been forever? Even if that way of life is harming them (it is), that harm may not be felt immediately. No one except the company owners and upper managers are living well. It is a hard-scrabble existence, even for the fully employed. The loss of that small income would be harsh and sudden. And there is no certainty that other means of getting by will magically appear. For good or ill, people’s livelihoods are tied to the survival of the timber company. To damage that is to imperil them all. In showing the perspective of the people residing in the affected area, Davidson treats the issues she raises in a serious, nuanced, and respectful manner. ”Ask any of these guys. You won’t find a guy that loves the woods more than a logger. You scratch a logger, you better believe you’ll find an ‘enviro-mentalist’ underneath. But the difference between us and these people is we live here. We hunt. We fish. We camp out. They’ll go back where they came from, but we’ll wake up right here tomorrow. This is home. Timber puts food on our tables, clothes on our kids’ backs. You know, a redwood tree is a hard thing to kill. You cut it down, it sends up a shoot. Even fire doesn’t kill it. Those big pumpkins up in the grove, they’re old. Ready to keel over and rot. You might as well set a pile of money on fire and make us watch.” It is clear that, even though he is in the business of removing trees from the landscape, that Rich does have a feel for, a love of the land. He often brings his son out into the woods to show him the woods, the topography, the beauty of their home. Rich wants to make sure he passes on what he can while he can. A charming element of this is when Rich teaches his son to use his hand as a map of their area. I could not help but think of Rich as a Fess-Parker-as-Davy-Crockett-or-Daniel-Boone sort, substantial, serious. But also kind and educable, interested in doing right by his family. This creates an internal conflict for him. Protect his family by seeing to it that the land he bought gets logged, and thus ensure their financial future, or consider that maybe Colleen is right to be concerned about the perils to them all of Sanderson’s spraying. Image from Santa Cruz Land Trust It is not spraying alone that is problematic. Hillsides, denuded of the plant life that held firmly onto the ground, lose their ability to absorb the considerable rain that falls in the area, and their ability to remain in place. It has got to be tough to remain connected to the land if the very land itself is washing away. Colleen suffers additional misery to that of enduring multiple miscarriages from the fact that her sister, Enid, seems to get pregnant at the drop of a condom. Enid uncrosses her legs for two minutes and a baby pops out. There is imagery aplenty to help things along. The huge lighthouse of a redwood has already been mentioned as a symbol of both permanence and possibility. Rich endures a bad tooth for much of the novel, maybe a conscience, or growing awareness that needs tending to. A dog which has had its vocal cords cut by a heartless owner surely stands in for silencing alarms of impending danger in the wider world. Showing the multigenerational element of the community reminded me of judging the age of a tree by the number of rings, but I am pretty sure that is just my projection. I think sometimes we assume that working in an industry like logging is a choice easily substituted with another choice, but there is real grief in letting go of a good job that has defined you. Damnation Spring is set forty years ago, but we see parallels in industry today. There are plenty of reasons why a coal miner in West Virginia can’t just pick up and move west to work on a solar farm. When your whole life is in a place, the idea of uprooting it is so overwhelming, it’s understandable that dying in the life you know might be preferable to starting over. - from the Library Journal interviewThere are also a larger perspectives one can see here. We can see in the microcosm of a small community what a larger society might look like when there is only one dominant political and economic power source, and it acts in its own interest regardless of the harm it does to all around it, and having no respect for the truth. This is what happens when there is power without accountability. Davidson shows how behavior ripples outward, from industry to community to family to individuals. The feckless, short-term profit-motive of Sanderson Timber forces the community to come to grips (or not) with the ecological and personally biological impacts of its work, which manifests in public (and secretive) behavior, pushing families into hard choices, and impacting individual lives. There is also the larger echo of events over four decades back (and more) impacting the world today. How much carbon in the atmosphere, for example, is not being sequestered because of clear-cutting? How many species of animal and plant life are being exterminated because of short term profit motives? And there is the immediate contemporary echo of so much of the planet still being plundered instead of managed, harvested, and renewed. A 2006 mudslide in Northern California – image from DCBS News The story is told from the alternating perspectives, Rich, Colleen and Chub. Damnation Spring started out as a first-person novel in Rich's voice. But I kept running into walls--things he couldn't know or wouldn't notice. Even after I added Colleen, they were both so quiet. I needed Chub. He's curious. He's lower to the ground. He's five at the beginning of the book. I'd worked as a nanny, so I had some experience with children that age. They're observant, but not judgmental, and still fully alive to the magic of the world, from birds' nests to Bigfoot. - from the Shelf Awareness interviewThis works well to offer a rounded take on the action of the story. Davidson spent the first three years of her life in Klamath, not of a logging family. Mom was a teacher, dad a carpenter. But they used a nearby creek for drinking water, like Rich and Colleen in the novel. Her parents became concerned about chemicals in the water, so stopped using it. Davidson heard about this later on, but retained curiosity about the experience. The story grew from that to wondering about how families and a whole community might respond when their homes, their communities became unsafe to live in. Gripes Throughout the course of the book we are given relentless examples of the horrors being inflicted on people, fauna, and flora, in addition to the huge reproductive issues. Beehives are obliterated, diseased deer stumble through the woods, nosebleeds are ubiquitous. This can get overbearing, as if we are being beaten over the head with it all, over and over and over. Yes, yes. Everything is being poisoned. Do we really need twenty more examples? Got it. The story-telling is effective. We see the characters and how their relationships with each other work. It is dense with detail, but maybe too much detail, enough so that it makes it, sometimes, tough to see the forest for the trees, and sometimes a slog to read. There is a response Rich has late in the book to something Colleen does that had me thinking of the real-life Daniel Boone. I understand the possibility of his response, but found it a bit of a stretch to accept in the 20th century, in the culture which is portrayed. He might have reached the destination to which he arrives, but it would have been with considerably more weeping and gnashing of teeth. In this case, maybe, a bit more detail would have been warranted. Overall, though, Damnation Spring is a powerful example of eco-lit, a humanity-based look at crimes against nature, featuring strongly-drawn characters that you can care about, dastardly doings enough to keep the action moving, some payload on the dynamics within a stressed logging community, and more on the impact of chemical spraying and clear-cutting. The book is printed on recycled paper, but you might feel more comfortable giving the trees a break and reading this one as an e-book. You can bury us, but you can’t keep us from digging our way out. Review posted – July 30, 2021 Publication date – August 3, 2021 I received an ARE of Damnation Spring from Scribner, of Simon & Schuster, in return for some seedlings and fertile soil. Thanks to ZC at S&S for providing, Cai at GR for cluing me in to this book, and NetGalley for facilitating. ==========In the summer of 2019 GR reduced the allowable review size by 25%, from 20,000 to 15,000 characters. In order to accommodate the text beyond that I have moved it to the comments section directly below.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Damnation! The critics adore this book so I kept reading through my frustration. The subject matter about the conflict between loggers and environmentalists is timely and the two main characters, Colleen and Rich, have potential. But… the first 200 pages are a detailed dumping ground for the author’s research about logging. Around page 200 or so the story starts to slowly take off but still sputters. Around page 300 I perked up and became mildly interested. At page 400 I started to care but then Damnation! The critics adore this book so I kept reading through my frustration. The subject matter about the conflict between loggers and environmentalists is timely and the two main characters, Colleen and Rich, have potential. But… the first 200 pages are a detailed dumping ground for the author’s research about logging. Around page 200 or so the story starts to slowly take off but still sputters. Around page 300 I perked up and became mildly interested. At page 400 I started to care but then it was over at page 442. Worth it? Not for me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I am a very well-read librarian and I'm going to say that Damnation Spring may be the best book I have ever read. I couldn't put it down and then I had to stop and take a break before I finished it because I did not want it to end. I felt fully immersed in the issues, the characters, the setting, and the descriptions. The writing is beautiful and the story is one that you'll never forget. I loved every character and felt their pain. Kudos to Davidson for a magical, thought-provoking, gripping fi I am a very well-read librarian and I'm going to say that Damnation Spring may be the best book I have ever read. I couldn't put it down and then I had to stop and take a break before I finished it because I did not want it to end. I felt fully immersed in the issues, the characters, the setting, and the descriptions. The writing is beautiful and the story is one that you'll never forget. I loved every character and felt their pain. Kudos to Davidson for a magical, thought-provoking, gripping first novel. Author, where'd you get those sweet writing skills? Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    To enter “Damnation Spring,” the debut novel by Ash Davidson, is to encounter all the wonder and terror of a great forest. Set amid the majestic redwoods of Northern California, the story runs as clear as the mountain streams that draw salmon back to spawn. Here is an author who knows and appreciates the land from every dimension — as nature, home, cathedral and cash. “Damnation Spring” joins Richard Powers’s “Overstory” and Annie Proulx’s “Barkskins” in a growing collection of epic novels about To enter “Damnation Spring,” the debut novel by Ash Davidson, is to encounter all the wonder and terror of a great forest. Set amid the majestic redwoods of Northern California, the story runs as clear as the mountain streams that draw salmon back to spawn. Here is an author who knows and appreciates the land from every dimension — as nature, home, cathedral and cash. “Damnation Spring” joins Richard Powers’s “Overstory” and Annie Proulx’s “Barkskins” in a growing collection of epic novels about our interactions with trees. It takes place in the late 1970s when the United States is moving aggressively, if belatedly, to address the industrial horrors that have ravaged the country. Empowered by the Clean Water Act and new regulations on chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency is fundamentally changing how natural resources are used. And the National Park Service is expanding, placing tens of thousands of acres beyond the teeth of the timber industry. As “Damnation Spring” opens, loggers who work near the Del Norte Coast are facing multiple threats to their livelihood. For generations, they’ve harvested trees as old as the Roman Empire — giants that soar 300 feet in the air, with trunks 30 feet around. Davidson describes the incredible athleticism of their work with such verve that you put this book down expecting to brush sawdust off your hands. Millions of board feet have been cut and dragged off these. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    4.5 stars, rounded up This book tugged at my heart almost from the beginning. Rich is a logger, a tree topper. It’s a dangerous job and both his father and grandfather died doing it. It’s 1977 and the industry is changing. There are fewer trees, workers are getting laid off. Folks are just starting to realize the impact of harvesting trees on the environment and there are protestors. It’s a hardscrabble life and Rich decides to gamble on buying one of the last stands of “big pumpkins” around, des 4.5 stars, rounded up This book tugged at my heart almost from the beginning. Rich is a logger, a tree topper. It’s a dangerous job and both his father and grandfather died doing it. It’s 1977 and the industry is changing. There are fewer trees, workers are getting laid off. Folks are just starting to realize the impact of harvesting trees on the environment and there are protestors. It’s a hardscrabble life and Rich decides to gamble on buying one of the last stands of “big pumpkins” around, despite barely having the money for the down payment. Oh, and he neglects to tell his wife about his purchase. His wife, Colleen, recently suffered a miscarriage and is still in mourning. She’s a midwife, although she lacks the formal education and state licenses. When her college beau reappears testing the local streams, she realizes the company’s use of herbicides is the reason for the number of miscarriages and birth anomalies in the area. It’s a true family saga in all its glory. Because Rich and Colleen still love each other. But they’re no longer truly communicating. And there are other family issues that muddy the waters as well. As folks in the area start taking sides, things get ugly. It’s a glimpse on a small scale of what things can get like on the big scale when people only see black and white. This book begs to be a book club selection. There’s a lot of meat here. It highlights just how hard it is to step away from a way of life that goes back generations, even as you can see the harm it’s doing. That said, the book could have been tighter. It’s the opposite of fast paced and at times, it did feel like a slog, especially in the beginning. I still recommend it because of the wonderful characters and the themes explored. My thanks to Netgalley and Scribner for an advance copy of this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    marta the book slayer

    1.5/5 Although environmental stories are not my usual reads, I was intrigued by the premise from the opposite perspective. Instead of focusing on the “tree huggers” (which was the focus of my last environmental book), this one focuses on the working class loggers in the 1970s. Rich has been cutting down redwood trees as long as he can remember. Almost 50 now and after his younger wife’s miscarriage, he makes the decision to use their life savings to buy a huge section of land with the intention t 1.5/5 Although environmental stories are not my usual reads, I was intrigued by the premise from the opposite perspective. Instead of focusing on the “tree huggers” (which was the focus of my last environmental book), this one focuses on the working class loggers in the 1970s. Rich has been cutting down redwood trees as long as he can remember. Almost 50 now and after his younger wife’s miscarriage, he makes the decision to use their life savings to buy a huge section of land with the intention to profit off the cut redwoods. Unknown to him, his wife, Colleen, begins to question whether her miscarriage (and the seven previous ones which she kept a secret) were caused by the sprays used to keep the land free of weeds. Working in secret with her ex boyfriend, she begins to wonder whether the nose bleeds, cancers, and deaths are worth it trade off for the income Rich gets. The story is also told through Chub’s perspective. As their only kid, his chapters showcase his innocence in what’s going on around him. The synopsis that I provided should have really set the background for the story, but instead this plot lasted for over 70% of the novel. Every plot point that I mentioned kept getting repeated and it seemed that there was no escalation. You may be asking me what then was happening for majority of the book? Well, we really meet a lot of random and pretty asshole-ish characters. By a LOT, it honestly felt like every chapter a new character was interjected. I didn’t use the word introduced, because no introduction was ever given. They would just appear using logger jargon. Their whole family was also mentioned as if we should know who they are in relation to Rich or Colleen. I honestly wouldn’t be able to describe the other characters no matter how hard I tried (and trying to find them in the book would be impossible). There was also a weird focus on some storylines. Rich’s toothache was mentioned so many times for absolutely no reason. We’re given background on his previous dentist. We’re told the life story of the current dentist he refuses to see. We get a random chapter of him going to the dentist. It makes no sense. Additionally, there was a skull found very early on but I don’t think there was ever any conclusion to who that was or what happened. Overall, maybe the last 10% of this book actually felt like something was going on. I still don’t completely understand what’s happening with the land in the end (but I can’t say I ever knew what was going on with it). I might have set too high expectations for this and ultimately had to really push myself to read to the very end. ∙ part of race against time challenge (aka read all 2021 releases before the year ends.) Thank you NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bruce Katz

    So there I was, going back and forth: Give the book a 4? Give it a 5? I'm reading, thinking this book is a wonder! So vivid and real. And then came the end. (Don't worry: No spoilers.) I don't recall other readers commenting on the end; maybe I missed it. In any event, it really ticked me off. Until those very last pages, the book simply blew me away with its gritty realism, the ways in which it made people and place come alive, tangible. I've been to places like the one in which the novel is set So there I was, going back and forth: Give the book a 4? Give it a 5? I'm reading, thinking this book is a wonder! So vivid and real. And then came the end. (Don't worry: No spoilers.) I don't recall other readers commenting on the end; maybe I missed it. In any event, it really ticked me off. Until those very last pages, the book simply blew me away with its gritty realism, the ways in which it made people and place come alive, tangible. I've been to places like the one in which the novel is set: Old growth trees, ancient pillars soaring hundreds of feet into the air, with their enormous circumferences and rough red bark. The air itself feeling green and damp, the ground alternatively soft with fallen leaves and decaying wood or hard with boulders embedded in the soil. "Damnation Spring" brought it all back to me. The novel is set in the fall, winter, and early spring of 1977-78, along the northern California coast. The story is told primarily through the eyes of three people: Rich Gunderson, latest in a generations-long line of tree cutters, a dependable guy, a good man; his wife Colleen, who is substantially younger than Rich, smart enough that she might well have had a very different life had she been brought up elsewhere, who acts as a midwife to the women in the logging community; and their young son Chub (Graham), an only child. They are ordinary people. They dream, desire, get angry, hide secrets, and dread falling apart. That's the basic set-up. Davidson captures the rhythm of life in this setting -- in particular, the ebb and flow of money as the rainy season prevents logging, the affection and respect some people have toward others and the resentment toward others, the pull of the past, the explosive anger loggers feel against those who would take away their jobs: the "hippy tree-huggers," the state that keeps taking forest land for parks, the bosses. There aren't many trees left to cut, you see. Not big ones like these. Everyone sees the dark destiny that is ineluctably rushing towards them but for the most part they are helpless to avert it. Worse, the spray the owners have used for years to limit the low growth that impedes their operations may well be responsible for countless miscarriages, birth defects, and cancers -- though the loggers and their families don't want to hear it, don't want to believe it, not when they have to work anyway to put food on the table and a roof over their families' heads. (In this, Davidson captures a dynamic that is every bit as present today as it was back then.) The people in "Damnation Spring" come across as every bit as real as the places they inhabit. They're rough and hard-working, unpolished, living from paycheck to paycheck, their jobs at the mercy of owners whose sole focus is on the bottom line, who speak of the tree cutters as a "family" but don't hesitate to screw them over. They're people whose jobs demand every last bit of the cutters' strength, will, and attention; a small mistake, a miscalculation or change in the wind, a sudden mudslide can kill a man in an instant. Before reading the book, I hadn't known how dangerous a job it was. Even the conversations rang true for me, revealing so much about the people, the nature of their relationships: Rich took a bite and a flare shot up his jaw. [He's developing a tooth abscess but can't bring himself to have it taken care of.] Sonofabitch. He turned the sandwich sideways, slab of cheese slathered with peanut butter. “What kind of cheese is that?” Don asked, lifting his chin at Rich’s second sandwich. “Orange kind.” Rich nudged it Don’s way. “Nah.” Don opened his fist to show the balled-up paper. “I had.” Pete spat a brown squirt of juice. “You seen Pacific started using steel spars down south? Hell, any monkey can climb those — don’t need no high-climbers.” Virgil Sanderson used to take Pete with him to look at new machinery, like a hound let loose on a scent. “Rich hasn’t been south of Scotia in his life.” Don pivcked up the sandwich, took a bite, exhaled in appreciation. “Gail still have you on that diet?” Pete asked. “One percent’s not milk, it’s water,” Don griped. “Next you’ll be sitting down to piss.” “That why you stay single, Pete?” Pete turned to Rich. “What the hell are you smiling at, you cradle-robbing sonofabitch? Wait ’til Colleen gets to be your age.” “I’ll be dead by then.” Rich winced, cool air skimming molar. Many readers on GR have expressed irritation with the book. I can understand why: Davidson goes into a lot of detail in describing the work of tree-cutting, all without any explanation or definition of terms. It can be frustrating, no doubt. After a while, though, I decided to just go with the flow, content with having a vague notion of what was happening as the loggers did their jobs. A representative passage: Rich stood at the base of the spar tree he would limb, cut the top off, and rig with cables. Don walked a wide circle around it, marking trees with blue cut lines. This steep and this rocky, the guy trees would be doozies for Pete to fall, but they needed their stumps to anchor the guylines that would keep Rich’s spar from snapping under the weight of logs lifted into the air. This was the last stand of big pumpkins on Deer Rib’s east side. If they were still being paid by the board foot, these babies would have been a good chunk of change... Rich watched Don hesitate before as Y-shaped three-hundred-footer whose stump they clearly needed… She was a sucker all right — only a sucker would try to cut her — almost impossible to predict which way she would fall. Suckers half this size had been twisting off the stump, knocking down good timber and killing fallers, even experts like Pete, for as long as men had cut trees. But leaving a pile of money upright wasn’t an option. Davidson really made me feel the pulse of the place, the passions and fears that motivate her characters, the awful hardness of the life they live. She plainly feels a tenderness for most of them, and those she doesn't like don't deserve to be liked. So yeah, I was really impressed. Awed in fact. Until the end. I'm not sure why it bothered me as much as it did. I'm probably overreacting. I'm sure I am. Just as I can understand what turned some readers off, I can understand why other readers speak with rapture about "Damnation Spring." I dropped from a sure 4 or 5 to a 3. View it as a 3.75 making its way back up the scale as my irritation fades. Ash Davidson is an extremely gifted writer, a rare talent. I eagerly await her next book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie

    I knew this book would touch the heart of the tree-hugger in me, which it most definitely did, but it also touched the woman in me, the mother in me, my very humanity. This is a very impressive debut novel about the logging industry, corporate greed and the protesting against the poisoned sprays used to clear off brush. The characterization is excellent. I knew these people down to their very souls. There are moments of suspense, there are moments of joy and there are moments of great heart brea I knew this book would touch the heart of the tree-hugger in me, which it most definitely did, but it also touched the woman in me, the mother in me, my very humanity. This is a very impressive debut novel about the logging industry, corporate greed and the protesting against the poisoned sprays used to clear off brush. The characterization is excellent. I knew these people down to their very souls. There are moments of suspense, there are moments of joy and there are moments of great heart break. A true American epic. Colleen, Rich and their son, Chub, as well as their dog Scout, will stay in my heart for a long time to come. Most highly recommended.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Miya

    This was an intense one for me. So much emotion, but definitely my kind of book. I love the issues brought up in these pages. It is slightly heavy, but that is because it is so honest and raw and real. Its not a books we can just close up and move on from. This one sticks with you and will change you in one way or another. Loved it!

  12. 5 out of 5

    MaryBeth's Bookshelf

    At 464 pages, Damnation Spring is a big book and a lot to commit to reading if it's not good. I found myself struggling a bit in the beginning, but something inside me told me to stick with it and I am so glad that I did. This book is incredible. I know you have a lot of choices when it comes to books, but please choose this one. I've never read a story like this one - original story line, beautifully written, incredible characters - I was holding my breathe the last few chapters and when I turn At 464 pages, Damnation Spring is a big book and a lot to commit to reading if it's not good. I found myself struggling a bit in the beginning, but something inside me told me to stick with it and I am so glad that I did. This book is incredible. I know you have a lot of choices when it comes to books, but please choose this one. I've never read a story like this one - original story line, beautifully written, incredible characters - I was holding my breathe the last few chapters and when I turned the last page I held the book to my heart. This one is not to be missed.

  13. 5 out of 5

    lark benobi

    Damnation Spring is written in a particular flavor of "masterfully-written" that absolutely repels me. The author generously begins to write in this style from the very first sentence of the novel, which I will quote here, so you can make up your own mind: Rick nabbed the week's mail from Lark's box and swung off the Eel Road, bumping down the muddy two-track past a pair of show toilets. There you go. If you love this sentence then here is the book for you. Damnation Spring is written in a particular flavor of "masterfully-written" that absolutely repels me. The author generously begins to write in this style from the very first sentence of the novel, which I will quote here, so you can make up your own mind: Rick nabbed the week's mail from Lark's box and swung off the Eel Road, bumping down the muddy two-track past a pair of show toilets. There you go. If you love this sentence then here is the book for you.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl S (book_boss_12)

    Round this up to 1.5 stars. Told in dual pov between Rich and Colleen a couple living in the California Redwoods (an area I love btw), I did not like this one at all. Here's why. It started off alright. Lot of logging talk in Rich's sections and no explanation of what he was even talking about. Lot of needless chatter between characters who were not introduced. Colleen was a bit better grieving over multiple pregnancy losses yet she too had some pointless conversations. Figured the story would ge Round this up to 1.5 stars. Told in dual pov between Rich and Colleen a couple living in the California Redwoods (an area I love btw), I did not like this one at all. Here's why. It started off alright. Lot of logging talk in Rich's sections and no explanation of what he was even talking about. Lot of needless chatter between characters who were not introduced. Colleen was a bit better grieving over multiple pregnancy losses yet she too had some pointless conversations. Figured the story would get going soon. But it didn't. This needless talk and random people continued on and on. For 500 pages. Then we'd hear a random chapter from thier only son Chubb once and awhile who is 5 mind you. So to spice things up we hear about a red lunchbox. Then the ending is awful and tons of questions unanswered. This was a repetitive, hard to understand, hard to keep track of characters, and overall boring book. Did not connect with characters and an overall absolute miss for me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    Damnation Spring is an epic, immersive debut and 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, Damnation Spring is an epic, immersive debut and 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 squirrelled 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. This is a captivating and thought-provoking story about the toll modern life has taken on the environment and features a clash between activists, big business and working-class loggers. It highlights just how capitalism has depleted natural resources with no care for the damage it may cause so long as it brings in the shekels. 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 and an impressive climate-centric read pitting ordinary families, their livelihoods, health and welfare against huge multinationals. Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Greg Zimmerman

    First appeared at https://www.thenewdorkreviewofbooks.c... It's been a long time since I read anything as good as Ash Davidson's novel, Damnation Spring. This book wrecked me in ways I can't quite yet begin to understand. It is a quintessential American story, and a truly great American novel. It's my favorite book of 2021, and it's hard to imagine I'll read anything that'll affect me as much as this book did. So Damnation Spring is set in a small logging town in northern California in 1977. It's First appeared at https://www.thenewdorkreviewofbooks.c... It's been a long time since I read anything as good as Ash Davidson's novel, Damnation Spring. This book wrecked me in ways I can't quite yet begin to understand. It is a quintessential American story, and a truly great American novel. It's my favorite book of 2021, and it's hard to imagine I'll read anything that'll affect me as much as this book did. So Damnation Spring is set in a small logging town in northern California in 1977. It's the story of the Gundersen family: Rich, a 4th generation logger, his wife Colleen, and their young son, Chub. Life is not easy. Logging, already dangerous, is now a dying industry, as environmentalists and conservationists ("tree huggers" and hippies) are becoming increasingly fierce in their objections to destroying the redwoods. But, for a logger, what's the point of saving a tree? A tree exists to be cut down. A tree is just timber waiting to be turned into profit, say the logging company capitalists. Nature exists only to benefit humanity. But even more deeply, the conflict in this novel is about no less than survival: It's between those trying to "save the world," and those trying to save themselves. If Rich can't log anymore, how are he and the rest of the guys he works with supposed to make a living? Saving the trees will kill their community. Logging is all they know — it's the only way this small town can survive. So to save himself and his family, Rich takes one last shot: When a parcel of land near his home comes up for sale, he takes out a huge loan to buy it (without telling Colleen). His plan is to log it, quickly turn that timber into dollars, and then retire. The company he works for is logging an adjacent parcel, and will already be building the roads to allow him to get his timber out. So it's a perfect plan, assuming all goes well. As you'd imagine, as is the case in good fiction, nothing goes well. But the loggers vs. the tree huggers isn't the only environmental story here. Both the logging company as well as the government use a herbicide spray to keep down the weeds and make logging easier. Not coincidentally, the town suffers a rash of birth defects, miscarriages, and mysterious dead animals. The logging company tries to convince the town the herbicides are safe, as business always does. But most people, Colleen included, know that their drinking water is being polluted, and their health is being compromised. What will it take to convince others, including her own husband, that this is true? Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was published in 1962, warning of the dangers of unchecked use of chemical pesticides. When I read that book a few years ago, I was sort of shocked by how little we've learned since then. This novel certainly makes that point starkly, as well — about how chemicals have horrific unintended consequences. When we try to engineer nature for short-term benefit, the long-term detriments are devastating. There has been an influx lately of really good environmental novels. This takes its place at the head of the class — it's a combination of two other books I loved, The Overstory, by Richard Powers and Deep River, by Karl Marlantes. But this novel is even better than the sum of those two parts. I loved the environmental message in this novel, but I equally loved these characters and their story — especially how Davidson renders moments of tenderness between them in what is a cruel and tough world. I rooted for all of them, even though it's hard to know who to root for in a novel about competing interests, when everyone's claim seems legit, even when it pits wife against husband. What's more, this novel is just so immersive. I haven't FELT like I was in a novel — the rainy, dreary forest, the stink and suck of the mud, the comfort beside the fire — like I did in this one. There were times, as I read this on hot summer days, I'd look up and be surprised there wasn't snow on the ground and I wasn't surrounded by redwoods. If it's possible for a first novel (yes, miraculously, this is a debut!) to be a masterpiece, this is it. This a book, like all the best books do, that will stay with me for a long time. I cannot recommend a novel more highly.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jthbooks

    This a strange book for me to review as I went through so many stages of what I felt about this book. At times I thought it was average, at times wonderful, then totally captured by the story and then let down. I’ll start with the positives, the characters in this are quite incredible. From the very first pages they felt so real. I just felt like I knew them, like I was reading about real people. I think the best character in the book was Colleen. I think Ash Davidson really captured what she wa This a strange book for me to review as I went through so many stages of what I felt about this book. At times I thought it was average, at times wonderful, then totally captured by the story and then let down. I’ll start with the positives, the characters in this are quite incredible. From the very first pages they felt so real. I just felt like I knew them, like I was reading about real people. I think the best character in the book was Colleen. I think Ash Davidson really captured what she was going through incredibly well, it was so moving and heartbreaking. Ash Davidson really can write characters. This book also tackles some hard-hitting points, such as deforestation, the taking of Native American land and the poisonous spray the used to help with the deforestation. It felt like this book was going to make some really powerful points. The first three quarters of the novel felt like a social commentary of the time this book was set and how everyone felt about the changes happening and it was really interesting. It wasn’t till about 75% into the book that I realised how attached how had become to the story and the characters when Colleen went against the town people to fight against the poison and the story felt tense and taught. I thought the story was going to go down that route but I was wrong. Then when an incident happened with Chub, the son of the two main characters, I found myself quite emotional and then I thought this book was excellent. However, then after the incident with Chub, another incident with his father happened and it felt like the whole novel changed course. The two shocking incidents almost cancelled each other out and totally lost their impact. It felt the author just went for shock factor. I couldn’t help but feel let down. The more I thought about it the more it just ruined the story for me. When these incidences happened, everything else got forgotten about. The poisonous spray, the deforestation, the towns people, the Native American protesting deforestation and conflict between them just never got resolved or even mentioned again. It was strange and slightly jarring. It felt like this meticulously detailed novel and the build up was for nothing. So when I take all this into consideration Damnation Spring can only come out as an average read for me. I think the thing I’ll remember it for is the disappointing ending and such much promise gone to waste. Thank you to the publishers for my copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out August 3rd.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Max

    Damnation Springs nails a realistic and heartfelt depiction of family, but misses the mark when telling a well-rounded story. Having some distant relatives who were loggers, I was really interested in this book's protagonist and what conflict would be presented from that. It's dangerous and physically grueling, and the owners managing these projects can also be manipulative and selfish. Offering a unique perspective with Rich and his wife is what kept me interested. Damnation Springs ends up bein Damnation Springs nails a realistic and heartfelt depiction of family, but misses the mark when telling a well-rounded story. Having some distant relatives who were loggers, I was really interested in this book's protagonist and what conflict would be presented from that. It's dangerous and physically grueling, and the owners managing these projects can also be manipulative and selfish. Offering a unique perspective with Rich and his wife is what kept me interested. Damnation Springs ends up being a pretty slow-paced of a novel, not due to the writing, but because the story is hard to follow. There is no central conflict that is easy to follow, and there's a lot happening at once. I think that if it was more concise, it could've kept me turning pages forever. Felt kind of close to home at some points, I recommend to people who want to read books with a focus on the environment and a little bit of family drama. Thank you Scribner!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Darla

    Economy and ecology go head to head in this debut novel. A small town in 1977 that depends upon the logging industry is beginning to realize the effects of the herbicides used to clear the roads of brush. There are many heartbreaking clues to show the residents how their air and water are tainted. The family featured (Rich (a logger), Colleen, and Chub Gunderson have suffered from an unusual number of miscarriages. As a midwife, Colleen begins to notice birth defects and even death occurring in Economy and ecology go head to head in this debut novel. A small town in 1977 that depends upon the logging industry is beginning to realize the effects of the herbicides used to clear the roads of brush. There are many heartbreaking clues to show the residents how their air and water are tainted. The family featured (Rich (a logger), Colleen, and Chub Gunderson have suffered from an unusual number of miscarriages. As a midwife, Colleen begins to notice birth defects and even death occurring in the births she assists. An old boyfriend is back in town taking water samples. Protestors are doing their best to keep the logging from continuing. And the park system is ready to cordon off more redwood land. The town sits on a powder keg and Rich has unwisely purchased timber land rich for harvesting with no roads to take out the logs. The Gunderson will win your heart. Lark, the crusty old family friend who spends his days finding Sasquatch in every hunk of wood and providing porta potties for tourists (on the honor system) will make you laugh. There was a bit too much logging lingo in there for me to decipher, so not quite a 5-star read. The miracle of life and the beauty of commitment shine through. Along with the need to be compassionate as we move forward in our stewardship of God's creation. Hand this to readers who loved Miracle Creek and The Great Alone. Thank you to Scribner and Edelweiss+ for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anna Avian

    Too much logging jargon without explanation. Overly descriptive about the landscape which only made the story drag but offering little to no detail about the numerous pointless characters.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Will Singleton

    4 stars. This book deserves some more attention! I enjoyed this one a lot. Very sad but beautifully written. This book moves very slowly, but not in a bad way. You have a lot of time to get into the story and become attached to the characters. Simple story, but masterfully told. I really hope this book gets some more reviews soon!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Shana

    ***Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review*** This is what I would call a triumphant debut. I almost feel sorry for Ash Davidson because she has set the bar sky high for herself with this gorgeous, engrossing story of a logging community in the late 1970s. The beginning was a bit difficult to get through, but since my mother had read the book and highly recommended it, I pressed on and was richly rewarded with complex characters, chilling suspense, simmering conflict, an ***Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review*** This is what I would call a triumphant debut. I almost feel sorry for Ash Davidson because she has set the bar sky high for herself with this gorgeous, engrossing story of a logging community in the late 1970s. The beginning was a bit difficult to get through, but since my mother had read the book and highly recommended it, I pressed on and was richly rewarded with complex characters, chilling suspense, simmering conflict, and so much more. The details surrounding the logging process and equipment were somewhat lost on me, and yet I still felt as if I could see the woods and feel the immensity of the trees. Even better than the rich setting was the character development and the ways in which Davidson showed the toughness of the community and the challenges of the loggers' lives. In doing so, she made connections between their resilience and the fierce, yet tender love that also existed within them. I felt invested in their lives; as if these were real, living people. This is a book that will have you staying up into the wee hours of the morning, and upon waking after too little sleep, you'll still be thinking about it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Frosty61

    I really loved this story about a community of hard-working, down-to-earth people trapped in a war between a logging company and environmentalists, but it broke my heart. Neighbors are pitted against each other and morals are tested with no easy way out of the dilemma of supporting your family vs. questioning what's being done to the environment in the name of profits. The pros: The distinct voices of three POVs - a husband, wife, and their child - all authentic The sense of place - foggy coast, m I really loved this story about a community of hard-working, down-to-earth people trapped in a war between a logging company and environmentalists, but it broke my heart. Neighbors are pitted against each other and morals are tested with no easy way out of the dilemma of supporting your family vs. questioning what's being done to the environment in the name of profits. The pros: The distinct voices of three POVs - a husband, wife, and their child - all authentic The sense of place - foggy coast, majestic forest, cozy houses, smelly bars, etc. Lots of 'showing not telling' - so much is revealed in short prose - I needed to read carefully so I didn't miss some of the nuance. The character development - likeable, flawed, and sympathetic The cons: The overly long descriptions of the logging process - I couldn't envision or understand most of it - maybe a diagram and/or glossary would've helped. I skipped paragraphs and probably missed a lot of important detail. The ending - I was disappointed the author didn't find another way to end this one. The length - the story could've been culled down by about 1/4 as some parts were repetitive. I'm a sucker for novels set in rural places with nature being part of the story and this one fit the bill perfectly. Now I need to plan a trip to the Pacific Northwest to take in the majesty of the redwood forest - cue the music - This Land is Your Land...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie Long

    Certainly not without flaws, but I admired Davidson's talent for immersing her reader in what, for most, will be an unfamiliar time and place. Despite the bleakness, and frankly predictability, of the plot, her writing kept me engaged. Certainly not without flaws, but I admired Davidson's talent for immersing her reader in what, for most, will be an unfamiliar time and place. Despite the bleakness, and frankly predictability, of the plot, her writing kept me engaged.

  25. 4 out of 5

    KELLY SILVEIRA

    FIVE STARS!!! FIVE STARS!! (Thanks to Scribner & Goodreads for the ARC that I won in the sweeps.) Ms. Davidson's writing blew me away from page one. It's hard to believe that this writing came from a debut author. Virtually every page was a delight of wondrous sentences and the truest dialog I've read in awhile. The setting is so clearly drawn that I'd put the book down expecting to look out my window at fog shrouded redwoods. This story of a family and a community watching their way of life disap FIVE STARS!!! FIVE STARS!! (Thanks to Scribner & Goodreads for the ARC that I won in the sweeps.) Ms. Davidson's writing blew me away from page one. It's hard to believe that this writing came from a debut author. Virtually every page was a delight of wondrous sentences and the truest dialog I've read in awhile. The setting is so clearly drawn that I'd put the book down expecting to look out my window at fog shrouded redwoods. This story of a family and a community watching their way of life disappear literally under their feet is so well told that it feels like a true story rather than a work of fiction. And the characters...oh the characters! Each one so real that I wanted to reach out and shake them or hug them or both! I will miss every one of them. Thank you, Ms. Davidson, for your astonishing work...which just went to the top of my all-time favorites list.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Well, this novel wrecked me. I couldn't even tell you why I picked this from the long queue on my kindle. Maybe the title? When I saw how long it was I thought I'd just give it a chapter or two and see. And now only two days later I'm a sniffly mess over the end of it. Colleen and Rich are two of the most heartbreakingly real characters I've read in a long time, and following them through their troubles in the 70s with the logging companies, the preservation "hippies," the hopes and stresses of Well, this novel wrecked me. I couldn't even tell you why I picked this from the long queue on my kindle. Maybe the title? When I saw how long it was I thought I'd just give it a chapter or two and see. And now only two days later I'm a sniffly mess over the end of it. Colleen and Rich are two of the most heartbreakingly real characters I've read in a long time, and following them through their troubles in the 70s with the logging companies, the preservation "hippies," the hopes and stresses of growing a family...man. This one really hit me. I will say that the logging business and the technicalities of who owns the tress vs who owns the land vs the structure of logging outfits was confusing and over my head. FIVE stars, for sure.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    Thanks to Netgalley and Scribner for sharing the ARC of this debut novel. I give all the stars to this one. The author has created a tremendous sense of place and a wealth of credible sympathetic characters. I was engrossed in the plot and deeply moved by the events. Books don’t often bring me to tears, but this one did, although it ends on a hopeful note. Highly recommend this to all.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alyson

    DNF. I hate doing this- but this book was just too full of technical logging terms, waaaaaay too many characters, and not a single character I connected with. Disappointed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    *4-4.5 stars. There was a time when we were taught in elementary school that America's natural resources were abundant and unlimited and provided by God for the use and profit of our citizens: forests, oil, coal, water, the very soil itself. In just a few generations, we're becoming all too aware of what that greedy thinking has done to the environment. Hand in hand with that hubris was the idea of 'better living through chemistry.' Nasty weeds and bugs hindering your crops, your profits, your en *4-4.5 stars. There was a time when we were taught in elementary school that America's natural resources were abundant and unlimited and provided by God for the use and profit of our citizens: forests, oil, coal, water, the very soil itself. In just a few generations, we're becoming all too aware of what that greedy thinking has done to the environment. Hand in hand with that hubris was the idea of 'better living through chemistry.' Nasty weeds and bugs hindering your crops, your profits, your enjoyment of nature? Spray them! Ah, but there were unintended consequences. In 1962, biologist Rachel Carson published her book Silent Spring, setting off alarms that the widespread use of chemicals like DDT were also endangering species of birds and animals and causing birth defects and tumors in humans. Within 10 years, the Environmental Protection Agency had been formed under Richard Nixon and the use of DDT was illegal in the United States. But there were other chemicals being used with abandon during that era, such as Agent Orange, an herbicide and defoliant, a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, used by the United States government during the Vietnam War from 1961-1971. The effect of that usage on American soldiers and on the people, animals and vegetation of Vietnam are still being felt to this day. The use of those chemicals and its unintended effects is a central theme in this story about the logging of the giant redwoods in Northern California in the late 70s. The chemical is being used to defoliate the brush and weeds to make it easier to get in and cut down the trees. The main characters of the story are the Gundersen family. Richard Gundersen is a fourth-generation high-climber working for Lifetime Sanderson Timber Company which employs 58 local residents in its mill and logging operations. A recent mudslide which closed Highway 101 north of Klamath has sparked debate over the timber industry's slash-and-burn policies and tree-huggers are staging protests. Sanderson's current plans are to harvest two old-growth parcels of redwoods known as Damnation Grove but these environmentalists are trying to stop it from going forward. They'd love to see this whole area of ancient redwoods become a protected state park. Not only might Rich Gundersen lose his logging job, but unbeknownst to his young wife, he has recently purchased acres of bordering property and hopes to use Sanderson's right of way to harvest his own redwood trees. In fact, he has risked everything on those hopes. But his young wife Colleen is becoming aware of the human costs of how the lumber company operates. She has suffered several miscarriages herself and as a midwife, has documented nearly a dozen cases of abnormalities in babies born in the area over the last six years. She worries that the aerial spraying of herbicides to control weeds may be contaminating local water sources including their own spring-fed drinking water. Above all else, she has their young son Graham to protect. These worries are tearing the community apart. What is more important--your livelihood or your family's health? Rich and Colleen are on opposite sides of these issues but will they be able to continue to love and support each other regardless? The scene and characters are well described by this debut author but the story does gets bogged down early on by perhaps too much descriptive writing and a few too many characters. Hang in there though--the central conflict soon takes the stage and has you quickly turning pages to see how this will be resolved. This was very close to a 5-star read for me. I received an arc of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I will definitely look forward to reading more from this fine writer.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I'm pretty sure "Damnation Spring" by Ash Davidson will be one of the best books I read this year. It is beautifully written, especially for a debut novel. It's a long book, but well worth the time investment! Ms. Davidson's descriptive writing made the redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest come alive to me. I now feel like I have been there, even though I've never been west of the Mississippi. The characters came alive to me as well, and they absolutely broke my heart at times. Though, at he I'm pretty sure "Damnation Spring" by Ash Davidson will be one of the best books I read this year. It is beautifully written, especially for a debut novel. It's a long book, but well worth the time investment! Ms. Davidson's descriptive writing made the redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest come alive to me. I now feel like I have been there, even though I've never been west of the Mississippi. The characters came alive to me as well, and they absolutely broke my heart at times. Though, at heart, this book is about the negative environmental impact that commercial logging has on both the wildlife and the people in the area, Ms. Davidson was also very sensitive to the fact that many families depend on logging for their livelihoods. There are no heroes or villains; it's not judgmental or preachy. This is a book that will stay with me for quite awhile. Five stars for character development, scene-setting, and amazing research. Many thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for the privilege of reading an advanced digital copy of this phenomenal book in exchange for my honest review.

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