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Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson
Literary fiction

Damnation Spring

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Ash Davidson, on your first book!

by Ash Davidson

Quick take

A moving portrait of a family struggling to make ends meet in a logging town divided over the fate of its forest.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Rural_update


  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Brainy


Illustrated icon, Icon_Challenging_Indicator


Note: For readers seeking a quick beach read, this is not that! ;) This book contains plot points about and depictions of infertility and miscarriages.

Why I love it

Jamie Chung
Actress (Lovecraft Country), creator of

As a San Francisco native, I care a lot about redwoods, which is how I knew I would like this 500-page tome about trees before reading a single page. Immersive and deeply-researched, Damnation Spring is the kind of book you read slowly, savoring each sentence.

Logging is the only life that Rich Gundersen has ever known. For decades, his family has eked out a life in the backwoods of California by chopping down the highly coveted and bountiful redwood trees that have dotted the landscape for centuries. By 1977, most of those trees have been cut down or protected, so when Rich stumbles into the deal of a lifetime—a plot of land that has yet to be felled—he leverages his life savings and more to make it happen.

But life is changing in the quiet ridge that Rich and his family call home. The streams have been overfished and polluted, pesticides have poisoned the groundwater, and the beautiful redwoods have been all but chopped down, and activists—or “tree huggers,” as Rich and his co-workers have termed them—have become more vocal about the irreversible destruction that has sustained the town for so long. Most chillingly, a rash of miscarriages has occurred, leading folks like Rich’s wife, who has lost several babies, to suspect: Is something in the water?

With its flinty, detailed prose and a large cast of characters, Damnation Spring is a challenging read, but not a line felt out of place. My brain felt nourished by the book’s fastidious details—the author clearly did her homework on all those logging terms—and my heart swelled and then ached for Rich, his family, and the hardships they are forced to endure. This is a moving, brilliant story from a wonderful new writer to watch.

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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.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Damnation Spring.

Member thoughts

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All (5189)
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5313 ratings
  • 42% Love
  • 42% Like
  • 14% Dislike
  • Council Bluffs , IA

    This was so worth the read. It was beautifully written and I loved the characters. I became emotionally invested in the issues of the town because I was reading it while pregnant. Couldn’t put it down

  • Newport , OR

    WARNING: this book will break your heart. It is such a good story but it’s sad. Reminded me of What Comes After and The Great Alone, where the landscape is an important factor. This could be the BOTY

  • Glen Dale, WV

    I wouldn’t call this a page turner but something kept me coming back to it. I read it while pregnant and got so invested in the characters because of that. So tragic but so beautiful at the same time.

  • Belton, TX

    Still thinking about this. I loved the characters and learned so much interesting history about the California redwoods and the logging industry. I wouldn’t say its slow, but not a page turner either.

  • Windsor, CO

    Riveting and devastating! All the characters felt like real, complicated people that I became very emotionally invested in. This is an astonishing debut novel and I can’t wait for the author’s next!

  • Montclair, NJ

    Despite some mixed reviews on the internet, this book was really calling my name. While the first half did drag slightly, it allowed me to learn about a d become invested in the characters. Loved it.

  • Columbus, OH

    I loved this book! Such an important read. Balancing the important environmental advocacy perspective and the impact logging has on native cultures with the impact advocacy has on logging communities

  • Chico, CA

    I deeply love the area in which this book takes place. Slow build. Well crafted. Bit tricky to follow some of the logging technicalities. Broke my heart. Will be thinking about this for weeks to come.

  • Tampa, FL

    As a scientist, the ignorance of the characters is frustrating on many levels as this actually happened. It makes me wish humanity was more willing to follow the guidance of science. Amazingly written

  • Tallahassee, FL

    I was skeptical on whether I was going to like this book when I first started reading, but as I continued I fell in love with the story and characters. It will completely shatter you; it was worth it.

  • Atlanta, GA

    Yes, it moved slow, but that’s kind of the point. To stop and soak it all in, like the forest in the book. These characters were so well thought out — I just lament the ending. I still ask, why?

  • Medford, MA

    The beautiful cover was what first drew me to this book. The story did not disappoint! It was engaging, very well written and heartbreaking. I could easily envision the characters & scenery. LOVED

  • Eureka Springs, AR

    This was a super book that makes you think. The author did a wonderful job of making a very personal story of those that have been in the logging industry for generations and those that are opposed.

  • Dallas , TX

    This was by far my favorite read of 2021. The perfect combination of history, family and thought provoking conversation about conservation and how circumstance, life and position shape your mindset.

  • Pompano Beach, FL

    A tragic tale of a family set in a setting that I am completely unfamiliar with. The book did a great job of setting the scene and putting you inside of the real life struggles that the family faces

  • Omaha, NE

    Such a beautiful book filled with rich character development. I thoroughly enjoyed how the environmental issues were told from a different perspective, it helped me try to put myself in their shoes!

  • Apex, NC

    Ms Davidson's DAMNATION SPRiNG is one of the best debut novels that I've ever read. The story is a compelling look at the Pacific Northwest's Redwood loggers, their families, and community in 1977.

  • Albany, NY

    I loved the industry vs environmentalist/health conflicts in this book. It shows a different perspective than books I typically read. Also who doesn’t love a book set amongst the giant redwoods?

  • Philadelphia, PA

    A beautiful book. Despite the environmentalist message, it's not preachy. There are no heroes or villains, just real people navigating their real lives. I got very invested in the relationships.

  • Waynesboro, VA

    Well-written about an industry no one ever thinks about and the challenges it posed to the people who made their living off of it and the forces that made it move on...good character development.

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