Author: Ash Davidson
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: Aug. 2021 (read Sep. 2021 on Audible)
The logging of old growth forests is a hot topic in BC these days and with all the big news stories about corporations polluting water supplies, the synopsis of this book really piqued my interest. It had two good narrators, so I decided to pick it up on Audible.
Damnation Spring combines the two issues I’ve summarized above into one big scandal. It’s the 1970’s and Rich and Colleen have lived in Damnation Grove for their entire lives, where Rich works as a tree-topper with a logging company and Colleen as a midwife. They have one son and have desperately been trying for a second, but poor Colleen keeps suffering miscarriages.
Through her work as a midwife, Colleen starts to remark that there have been a lot more complicated births, as well as infant deaths. Word starts to spread that other women have also been having miscarriages and rumours start to circulate that the pesticides the logging company sprays on the forest is potentially getting into the water supply and causing birth defects.
As an employee of the logging company and new owner of a swath of old growth forest that he’s dreamed of logging, Rich stands on one side of the scandal, while Colleen stands on the other. On top of everything, environmentalists and indigenous groups have been flooding the town arguing for the protection of the trees and threatening the way of life of this long time logging town.
To say this book tries to tackle a lot of issues would be an understatement. The problem was that I don’t think the author really did justice to any of them. This was actually the perfect setting for a story of such depth because so many of these issues are often related. I did really like the inclusion of the local First Nations band, who argued for the protection of the trees and waterways despite the terrible racism and abuse they suffered. I thought the idea of blending all of these issues into one was really smart and multi-faceted, it just wasn’t executed quite as well as I would have liked.
My primary criticism would actually be that this book was too long, although that’s not quite right, it’s not so much that it’s too long, but that the author didn’t really focus on the right aspects of the story. Now this is just my opinion, but the author spent a lot of time talking about logging that I just didn’t care to read. There is so much time dedicated to the logging company, the company drama, and waxing on and off about logging techniques. I just didn’t really care about any of it. I totally got and appreciated that this was a logging town and that it was the community members entire livelihood. Despite popular opinion that we shouldn’t be logging old growth forests (agree), I could still empathize with the community. I 100% bought into Rich’s dream of wanting to log the 24/7 tree, I understood why and yes, I felt bad for him. But this was the smaller part of why I wanted to read this book.
Sadly I felt Davidson just didn’t spend enough time on the whole ‘poisoning-the-water-supply’ angle. I felt like most of the book was an expose about uncovering the water pollution, versus a fight to stop it. This is covered to a certain degree, those who stood up against the spraying were definitely ostracized, but generally I found the conclusion of this plot point to be unsatisfying. It almost felt like the resolution of the two issues were tangential to one another. By which I mean, the pesticides issue was only solved because of the duplicity of the logging company selling out to the Park, negating the need for spraying. It made me question what was even the point of me reading this entire story when at the end of the day, it was still the logging company ultimately calling the shots. . It just made me feel like this was a book about logging, with all the other conflicts thrown in just for the drama of it, rather than the reverse. Likewise, I thought it should have ended earlier and felt there was some unnecessary drama thrown in at the end that didn’t really add to the story.
I did still enjoy the book, but honestly, I think I’d rather just go read some non-fiction about it instead, because we know there’s enough drama surrounding these topics that there’s no need to have to make it up.