Damnation Spring


This newsletter is not a chronicle of everything I’ve experienced…every book, TV show, movie and concert. And it’s certainly not a list. A list is not writing, and not that intriguing.

However, one of the main reasons I read a book or watch a TV show or movie is because of the plot. So it’s not easy to write about something I’ve consumed. Because I want you to have the same experience I do, of the story unfolding, the surprises, the twists and turns.

“Damnation Spring” is not a hidden book. It’s got nearly a thousand reviews on Amazon. That’s one of the criteria I employ to decide whether or not to read a book.

I read about “Damnation Spring” somewhere, and then immediately went to Amazon. It had four and a half stars. Four is not uncommon, but four and a half, that’s relatively rare. At least with real books, not lowbrow crap. So I reserved it via the library app Libby, and then I got to jump the line and had seven days to complete it as opposed to the usual twenty one. If I’d continued to wait for the three week lend, it would have been in excess of three months. So I dove in.

“Damnation Spring” is subtle. It’s not littered with constant plot twists and turns. It’s about regular people. And it’s set in 1977.

Now you can read “Damnation Spring” as a polemic about logging, and that’s in the book, but what got me hooked was the story of the people. Everybody’s just trying to get along. Can you leave your hometown, can you abandon your relatives, or do you need that comfort to exist?

And then you’ve got the issue of finding a partner. If you never leave town, the pickings are much more slim. You adjust your expectations. And then you have to accept the significant others of your family members, and we all know that can be hard to do. What were they THINKING when they married so and so…I still don’t have the answer.

So this is pre-internet. But it’s also pre-cell phone. You live off the beaten path and you’re alone. Good luck calling for help.

And then there are the injuries. Members of the educated elite sprain a finger and immediately go to the doctor. And then you have those on the opposite end of the education/wealth spectrum who just tape it up and move on. Who wear their injuries for the rest of their lives, and don’t complain about it.

And if you live in the boonies… Death is more frequent. Living to an old age is harder, because of the risks of your job, because of the lack of first class health care. Especially if you’re a logger.

Does the logging company care about you? Do all the environmentalists care about you, how you make your living? These questions are baked into the story, but even more intriguing is how the people get along. You know everybody in a small town, but you don’t necessarily like them, or trust them.

So is “Damnation Spring” the best book I’ve ever read? No. But it’s head and shoulders above everything else I’ve read in the past couple of months. The lauded Gary Shteyngart was a huge disappointment, ignore the reviews, and I loved his previous book, “Lake Success,” which is why I bought “Our Country Friends.” Once bitten, twice shy. I’m going back to the library. I was eagerly awaiting “Our Country Friends,” if I hadn’t bought it I would have stopped reading it.

And honestly, “Damnation Spring” does not hook you from the get-go, but you become invested, you want to know what happens. But it’s not only plot.

And at times you’re not sure what Ash Davidson is saying, you’ve got to finish the sentence or paragraph to fully understand, but it’s nothing in comparison to Shteyngart, where you’ve got to completely adjust for his style.

Books are smaller than movies or TV shows. They require effort. But when done right they create a whole world, which you can enter and inhabit. And I love this feeling, especially in an era where there is cell service everywhere, where everybody feels you must be available 24/7, where you always feel connected.

But you want to be disconnected sometimes.

I don’t want to oversell “Damnation Spring,” it’s not for you if you read one book a year. But if you read ten or twenty, check it out.

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