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Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

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The dramatic story of the methamphetamine epidemic as it sweeps the American heartland a timely, moving, very human account of one community s attempt to battle its way to a brighter future. Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more true than in the small towns of the American heartland. Methland tells The dramatic story of the methamphetamine epidemic as it sweeps the American heartland a timely, moving, very human account of one community s attempt to battle its way to a brighter future. Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more true than in the small towns of the American heartland. Methland tells the story of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,159), which, like thousands of other small towns across the country, has been left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy, and an out-migration of people. As if this weren t enough to deal with, an incredibly cheap, longlasting, and highly addictive drug has rolled into town. Over a period of four years, journalist Nick Reding brings us into the heart of Oelwein through a cast of intimately drawn characters, including: Clay Hallburg, the town doctor, who fights meth even as he struggles with his own alcoholism; Nathan Lein, the town prosecutor, whose caseload is filled almost exclusively with meth-related crime; and Jeff Rohrick, a meth addict, still trying to kick the habit after twenty years. Tracing the connections between the lives touched by the drug and the global forces that set the stage for the epidemic, Methland offers a vital and unique perspective on a pressing contemporary tragedy.


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The dramatic story of the methamphetamine epidemic as it sweeps the American heartland a timely, moving, very human account of one community s attempt to battle its way to a brighter future. Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more true than in the small towns of the American heartland. Methland tells The dramatic story of the methamphetamine epidemic as it sweeps the American heartland a timely, moving, very human account of one community s attempt to battle its way to a brighter future. Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more true than in the small towns of the American heartland. Methland tells the story of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,159), which, like thousands of other small towns across the country, has been left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy, and an out-migration of people. As if this weren t enough to deal with, an incredibly cheap, longlasting, and highly addictive drug has rolled into town. Over a period of four years, journalist Nick Reding brings us into the heart of Oelwein through a cast of intimately drawn characters, including: Clay Hallburg, the town doctor, who fights meth even as he struggles with his own alcoholism; Nathan Lein, the town prosecutor, whose caseload is filled almost exclusively with meth-related crime; and Jeff Rohrick, a meth addict, still trying to kick the habit after twenty years. Tracing the connections between the lives touched by the drug and the global forces that set the stage for the epidemic, Methland offers a vital and unique perspective on a pressing contemporary tragedy.

30 review for Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

  1. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    This book is about Oelwein, IA - my hometown. It's also about the meth epidemic in small towns throughout the U.S. Meth is most prevalent in rural areas, where poor people cook up small batches in their kitchens. Reding focuses much of the book on the period between 2005-2007 when meth coverage was at it's height in the media. Reding also relates the history of methamphetamine use -- it was given to soldiers during WWII to keep them going for days without sleep or food and prescribed to housewiv This book is about Oelwein, IA - my hometown. It's also about the meth epidemic in small towns throughout the U.S. Meth is most prevalent in rural areas, where poor people cook up small batches in their kitchens. Reding focuses much of the book on the period between 2005-2007 when meth coverage was at it's height in the media. Reding also relates the history of methamphetamine use -- it was given to soldiers during WWII to keep them going for days without sleep or food and prescribed to housewives during the 50s to keep them energetically caring for homes and children. He also describes how the drug makes you feel good by flooding your brain with neurotransmitters, and in the long term actually rewires your brain so that the drug is the only thing that makes you feel good. I saw the effects of economic depression throughout my childhood, and knew that there were certain people I should stay away from. I could sense the despair that clung to my hometown. I was aware of drugs, and in high school I knew where I could have gone to get them, but drug use was mostly hidden. I'm glad that someone decided to expose it. Reding has taken heat from many people in town for making a few little nit-picky factual errors like describing Des Moines as being south of Oelwein instead of southwest. I think the big picture he paints is dead on, even if minor details here and there may be a tad off.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    Real Rating: 4.5* of five #ReadingIsResistance to forgetting how Federal policy has local consequences. This fact needs to influence your vote! I've blogged my whole review for those interested in it. This must-read book explains why it's a necessity to vote in the 2020 elections like never before. This story leads you to understand why and how so many of our fellow citizens fell down a rathole of lies and idiocy! Bloomsbury Publishing USA thank you for supporting this wonderful book. Author Nick Real Rating: 4.5* of five #ReadingIsResistance to forgetting how Federal policy has local consequences. This fact needs to influence your vote! I've blogged my whole review for those interested in it. This must-read book explains why it's a necessity to vote in the 2020 elections like never before. This story leads you to understand why and how so many of our fellow citizens fell down a rathole of lies and idiocy! Bloomsbury Publishing USA thank you for supporting this wonderful book. Author Nick Reding, thank you for reporting it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    I'm catching up on stuff today, and I realized I never posted about this book. There is, of course, much more than I'll say here at my online reading journal; otherwise: Just to be clear here, this book is neither an exposé nor a voyeuristic look into the lives of all of the meth addicts in this town, nor is there anything along the lines of say "Breaking Bad" here, so readers who are into that sort of thing should probably move along. This book is serious business and deserves to be read as s I'm catching up on stuff today, and I realized I never posted about this book. There is, of course, much more than I'll say here at my online reading journal; otherwise: Just to be clear here, this book is neither an exposé nor a voyeuristic look into the lives of all of the meth addicts in this town, nor is there anything along the lines of say "Breaking Bad" here, so readers who are into that sort of thing should probably move along. This book is serious business and deserves to be read as such. Methland is a book very much worth reading. Even if there are people out there who pooh-pooh the idea that there's a meth "epidemic" sweeping small-town rural America, what really struck me was the bigger implications of, as the dustjacket blurb notes, "the connections between the real-life people touched by the drug epidemic and the global forces behind it." As Mr. Reding states in an interview, "...people are trying to destroy small town American life. And they're doing it economically...That's what big agriculture is doing and that's what the pharmaceutical industry is doing. Going back to the Clinton years, there's this notion that globalization is somehow beyond criticism, that it's a pure form of self-sustaining economic perfection. It's not true, and if you'd like to see where it's least true, go to Oelwein." Oelwein, Iowa is the launching point of this book; it's a town which has been "left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy, and an out-migration of people." It's also a place where "the economy and culture" are "more securely tied to a drug than to either of the two industries that have forever sustained the town: farming and small businesses." However, it's not just Oelwein that is facing some pretty serious issues in this story. While he makes people in Oelwein the central focus of his book, and examines the town's changes and its problems through their eyes, it is also very clear that what has happened there is happening throughout the midwest. Oelwein, which was "on the brink of disaster" by May 2005, is just one focal point for examining how the lobbyists and government supporters of both Big Agriculture and Big Pharma, as well as the effects of free trade (vis-a-vis NAFTA) have all contributed to catastrophic changes in rural, small-town America, which in turn contribute to the rising meth epidemic in these areas. Methland is also a story about real people in a real town with real lives, some of whom have shared their experiences with the author to offer firsthand accounts. Many of them have through no fault of their own been caught up in circumstances largely beyond their control; some of them do what they can in what seems like a hopeless situation. The author's research and his own observations make for great reading on a human level as well. This is also a book that seriously pissed me off -- as it should for anyone who reads it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I was expecting this to be an overview of the meth epidemic in America's small towns. Instead, the author is specifically trying not to tell that story, but to go beyond and around it to expose the conditions in small-town America that make its denizens susceptible to the twin evils of meth and despair. Using the example of the town of Oelwein, IA, the author explores issues like education, employment, immigration, law enforcement, the DEA, the dearth of treatment programs, etc. For such a short I was expecting this to be an overview of the meth epidemic in America's small towns. Instead, the author is specifically trying not to tell that story, but to go beyond and around it to expose the conditions in small-town America that make its denizens susceptible to the twin evils of meth and despair. Using the example of the town of Oelwein, IA, the author explores issues like education, employment, immigration, law enforcement, the DEA, the dearth of treatment programs, etc. For such a short book, this made me quite impatient. At times it felt repetitive, as if the author were trying to make a page count. He asks certain residents of Oelwein to carry more of the story than they seem able, spending a lot of time on biographical anecdotes about people whom I found neither interesting nor sympathetic, without convincing me that they were important, either. Of course the problem was partly with my expectations. I was expecting to read a book about how horrible the meth epidemic is. Instead, the point of this book seemed to be that small-town folks really are the salt of the earth and if there's a meth problem there, it's just because of all these other issues. I think the author meant this as a message in contrast to all the meth hype in 2005 or so. But after the last election cycle, in which we all heard so much about how small-town people are the "real" Americans, it just annoyed me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melki

    This is not Radar O'Reilly's Ottumwa, Iowa. This Ottumwa and neighboring Olwein, are now centers of meth production, creating pockets of vice and lawlessness in America's bucolic heartland. There have been thousands of methamphetzmine labs seized in Iowa. Drugs are normally thought of as a "big city" problem, but according to the author, ...many of the towns of the rural United States are quite disconnected from the rest of the nation. Poverty rates are higher, fewer people have achieved secondar This is not Radar O'Reilly's Ottumwa, Iowa. This Ottumwa and neighboring Olwein, are now centers of meth production, creating pockets of vice and lawlessness in America's bucolic heartland. There have been thousands of methamphetzmine labs seized in Iowa. Drugs are normally thought of as a "big city" problem, but according to the author, ...many of the towns of the rural United States are quite disconnected from the rest of the nation. Poverty rates are higher, fewer people have achieved secondary levels of education, and substance abuse is far more prevalent than in urban America.." It does not help matters that large meatpacking plants located in the midwest have either closed their doors entirely, or replaced many well paid employees with far cheaper illegal immigrants. Technically, there is really only enough information here to make for a well-padded magazine article, but interviews and written portraits of the townsfolk provide a good look at the human side of the problem. Reding introduces us to current users, those struggling to be shed of their addiction, and to the drug's youngest victims - the children of meth-addicted parents. There is also an interesting profile of Lori Arnold, Ottumwa's most famous daughter, a high school dropout who has managed to build a tremendous meth empire, not once, but twice. If you're looking for sensational gross-out stories, the book has a few, including the guy whose skin began melting off as he kept running BACK into his house after a lab explosion, and the horror stories of what drug agents sometimes find AFTER the raids - WARNING! This is super gross!(view spoiler)[bathtubs full of mountains of excrement in the home of one man who was fond of having enemas while high on crank. (hide spoiler)] There is some good news. Downtown Olwein has been revitalized. New jobs have been created and industry is moving back into the area. There is hope. The paperback edition includes an afterward featuring a town meeting where Olwein's citizens react to their 15-minutes of infamy. Whew! I think I'll have a Grape Nehi and watch some M*A*S*H reruns.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Schuyler

    This is more of a 3 1/2 star rating (I put my support behind Meghan and her undying, relentless campaign for a more accurate 1/2 star, or even 1/4 rating system. Listen up Goodreads! Or you're nerdy community will revolt!). Apparently, after reading some reviews by some native Iowans (is that what they call themselves?) there are a few factual inaccuracies throughout the book, such as Iowa City is not the largest city in Iowa, or that The University of Northern Iowa is in Cedar Falls, not Cedar R This is more of a 3 1/2 star rating (I put my support behind Meghan and her undying, relentless campaign for a more accurate 1/2 star, or even 1/4 rating system. Listen up Goodreads! Or you're nerdy community will revolt!). Apparently, after reading some reviews by some native Iowans (is that what they call themselves?) there are a few factual inaccuracies throughout the book, such as Iowa City is not the largest city in Iowa, or that The University of Northern Iowa is in Cedar Falls, not Cedar Rapids. For the most part, I don't care. These facts aren't really relevant to the whole story BUT they do chip away at Reding's credibilty as a reporter...but I'm sure these kind of mistakes will be fixed come the paperback edition. As with any reportage of this type, one which the book industry seems to be saturated by, you can't go taking everything the author says as The Truth. You have to view it as a version of The Truth that helps (hopefully) create a better understanding of the subject in question and (hopefully) creates a 'national dialogue'. So this is Nick Reding's version of rural America, of the Meth problem in those areas, and of Oelwein, IA. This is a very human centered story. Reding devotes just as much time to understanding meth and the DTO's (Drug Trafficking Organization) as he does to the people whose lives are effected by them. So if you're going in expecting a meth-soaked narrrative, you might be a little bit disappointed. That is not to say that meth is not present on every page, because it is, but in a more atmospheric way. I guess I was looking forward to understanding more about meth as drug and I came away with a vague understanding but nothing incredibly concrete. And that has more to do with my expectations than it does with Reding's execution as a writer, because I'm sure he intended to devote a lot of narrative space to these people he befriended and whose lives he saw crippled by meth. But I don't want to sell Reding short. He does a damn good job explaining the history of meth and it's ever changing distribution and manufacturing. Sometimes I felt he bit off a little more than he could chew, narratively, as he tried connecting all the pieces that come into play when talking about a major drug like meth. He starts off talking about rural America, then economic turmoil, then meth, then big agriculture, then Monsanto and Cargill (of which his father was a vice chairmen, which was a neat twist), then the meat industry, then DTO's, then legislation, then pharmaceutical lobbyists, then insurance companies, etc, etc. I'm not saying this isn't all important because it most certainly is if a reader wanted the whole picture. But I felt Reding didn't devote enough space to all the pieces of the puzzle. The book needed to be twice as long as it was to form a proper, coherent narrative. So that's kinda positive criticism: I wanted more. After all this unnecessary nitpicking, I recommend this book. Ah, what the hell, I'll give it four stars. Also, it reinforced the idea that, yet again, Big Pharma is evil, evil, evil.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This book lingered far too long on Reding himself, and far too often it was him meditating on the fact he did research and traveled to Oelwein, as well as how his family is from the midwest. But then there are the just plain wrong "facts" in the book: University of Northern Iowa is not in Cedar Rapids (it's in Cedar Falls); Iowa City is NOT the largest city in Iowa (more like 5th!); and Iowa City is also not southwest of Oelwein (almost due south, if not a bit southeast). Those are just the quic This book lingered far too long on Reding himself, and far too often it was him meditating on the fact he did research and traveled to Oelwein, as well as how his family is from the midwest. But then there are the just plain wrong "facts" in the book: University of Northern Iowa is not in Cedar Rapids (it's in Cedar Falls); Iowa City is NOT the largest city in Iowa (more like 5th!); and Iowa City is also not southwest of Oelwein (almost due south, if not a bit southeast). Those are just the quick ones. How can we put faith in his research if he misses such easy facts? How does he gain credibility telling a story about a city in Iowa when he continues to be misinformed about basic Iowa facts? While this book got rave reviews in major newspapers and on NPR, I just have a big issue with the fact it does little to talk about the meth problem in Oelwein! It talks a lot about issues around it, but it never delves deeply enough for me. This is a book that really is about big food and how it killed small town America; the meth just happens to be one of the issues arising from the corporate farming. To me it seemed Reding spent more time talking about how he was a credible source rather than actually showing it. This could have been a much more interesting and powerful/interesting book -- a la "Reefer Madness." I also had an issue with the fact that the book begins by drawing a grim picture of Oelwein (2005) but in 2008, everything is becoming hunky dorey. Clearly things don't change that much that quickly, but from an outsider's perspective, it seems like it, I suppose.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    The premise: an in-depth look at America's multifaceted relationship with meth, viewed mostly through the lens of one town (Oelwein, IA) and its addicts, public servants, and bystanders. Nick Redding balances the specifics of this one small town against the broader forces engaged in the epidemic: the global economy, American agriculture, immigration issues, DEA efforts, the pharmaceutical industry, cultural values, and government (in)action. Methland has a slow, self-important prologue that isn' The premise: an in-depth look at America's multifaceted relationship with meth, viewed mostly through the lens of one town (Oelwein, IA) and its addicts, public servants, and bystanders. Nick Redding balances the specifics of this one small town against the broader forces engaged in the epidemic: the global economy, American agriculture, immigration issues, DEA efforts, the pharmaceutical industry, cultural values, and government (in)action. Methland has a slow, self-important prologue that isn't quite justified or engaging. I could feel the author groping for ways to make his readers share his concerns about meth and the many lives it affects, but he doesn't quite have that gift for consolidating complex issues into powerful, meaningful language that the best investigative non-fiction authors have. The details about the people and places he visits are, throughout the book, verbose but rarely captivating. Still, I'm very glad I stuck with it. Redding is rightly concerned that people are ignoring the effects of meth on rural America, and the reasons the drug has taken such a hold in the first place. Reading it proved to be an eye opening experience. I did end up getting drawn in. Best, the book is very successful in straddling an "objective," journalistic approach and an empathetic voice. Like anyone serious about tackling complex issues, Redding feels his way through, gathering information and experiences from as many sides as he can. Methland is well researched, full of statistical information (and the questionable means this is acquired) and history-- national, local, and personal. Redding decided to move back to his hometown of St Louis (from his adult home of New York City) in the course of writing the book. I am not at all surprised. Methland is a call to action. A call to demand more from our government as a defender of public interest, but more explicitly a call for individuals to do their part. A reminder that health of a community does effect the well-being of an individual, and that successful communities rely on engaged participants. And, for urbanites like me who left their shit-hole hometowns, a reminder to empathize with those we ran from, to recognize the heroism in the few that do stay and improve their neighborhoods, and to get off our asses and contribute to the revitalization.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David

    Nick Reding has a nice literary style, which I appreciate in a non-fiction book as it makes for less dry reading. That's one of the redeeming qualities of this book, which was interesting but frankly didn't really bring that much insight to the table. Okay, meth is bad, we all know that. And drug addiction is horrible, drug cartels are evil and dangerous, and poverty tends to breed despair and thus drug use. These are all well-known facts and true of every addictive drug and every drug "epidemic Nick Reding has a nice literary style, which I appreciate in a non-fiction book as it makes for less dry reading. That's one of the redeeming qualities of this book, which was interesting but frankly didn't really bring that much insight to the table. Okay, meth is bad, we all know that. And drug addiction is horrible, drug cartels are evil and dangerous, and poverty tends to breed despair and thus drug use. These are all well-known facts and true of every addictive drug and every drug "epidemic." But color me skeptical when I'm told that this generation's drug is yet another incarnation of the WORST DRUG EVER IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND! Reding goes into the history of meth and traces the rise of meth as a small town drug that is symbolic of the woes of Middle America by tying it to one town in particular: Oelwein, Iowa. He takes a sample of individual real-life characters -- the optimistic but beleaguered mayor, the pragmatic and cynical prosecutor, the alcoholic doctor, and of course, various dealers and addicts -- to personalize the effects of meth on this town. The stories are interesting but nothing we haven't heard before. Likewise, the rise of the Mexican Mafia is just a reprise of the Colombian cocaine cartels in the 80s. Once again, ham-handed legislation tainted by lobbyist influence managed only to strengthen the hold that organized crime has on the trade. The connection to globalization and poverty is there, but I think it's a weaker part of Reding's narrative, particularly when he veers into agribusiness consolidation. This represents a whole host of problems afflicting the American heartland, and meth is just one piece of it, more a side effect than a root cause. I found the book interesting and Reding's storytelling quite adequate, but it seemed like there was quite a bit of filler to pad it out to a full-length book. The Oelwein sections themselves were only part of the book. This isn't a bad book or even a particularly flawed one, and certainly it increases understanding of the specifics of the drug methamphetamine. But I didn't find it to be ground-breaking, nor wholly convincing in its thesis that meth is the Worst!Drug!Ever! and that the loss of American farming and blue collar jobs is responsible for the problem.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I've been practicing criminal law for the past 18 years .. 8 years as an assistant district attorney and 10 years as a criminal defense attorney. So, I've had lots of hands on experience with meth cases. I've heard the law enforcement side and had many one on one conversations with users, dealers and cooks, but I still learned a lot of new information in this book. This was a very interesting read regarding the big picture of how meth came into being, how it transformed from a legal drug to an i I've been practicing criminal law for the past 18 years .. 8 years as an assistant district attorney and 10 years as a criminal defense attorney. So, I've had lots of hands on experience with meth cases. I've heard the law enforcement side and had many one on one conversations with users, dealers and cooks, but I still learned a lot of new information in this book. This was a very interesting read regarding the big picture of how meth came into being, how it transformed from a legal drug to an illegal drug, the big business of how it is mass produced, and the drug cartels who handle it's distribution. The thing that was the most fascinating to me is to find out how the government could have gotten control of this problem a long time ago but they were always catering to the big interest groups who were lobbying them and probably also donating big bucks to campaigns. Yet, that same government is always ready to write more and more laws to punish the end users. There is also a very interesting discussion about the relationship between small towns, agribusiness, the economic changes that have occurred and how this all interplays with meth distribution and usage. The sociological perspective of meth was something I had not really given much thought to before now.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town Nick Reding puts all of the pieces together in an excellent investigative book that exposes the complex and seemingly unstoppable forces behind the epidemic, while also revealing its human cost through individual stories that will make you hurt. If you grew up in a small town, you know these people. The heartland's struggle with meth addiction is largely rooted in a cataclysmic shift from small farm and ranch operations to corporate-run cent Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town Nick Reding puts all of the pieces together in an excellent investigative book that exposes the complex and seemingly unstoppable forces behind the epidemic, while also revealing its human cost through individual stories that will make you hurt. If you grew up in a small town, you know these people. The heartland's struggle with meth addiction is largely rooted in a cataclysmic shift from small farm and ranch operations to corporate-run centers of mega-production. Animals are raised in centralized factory pens, fattened in giant feed lots, and slaughtered in megalithic processing plants. Grain production has been centralized on huge corporate farms where food is planted, harvested, and processed under the supervision of agribusiness giants like Cargill and Monsanto. This shift has devastated the morale and pocketbook of rural America. Former independent entrepreneurs have been reduced to the status of easily replaceable wage slaves. Local packing plants that used to pay their employees twenty dollars an hour plus health benefits have been absorbed by mega corporations that pay six dollars an hour and no benefits to a workforce that is powerless to demand anything better. Anyone who toured the Midwest farming country during its heyday, which peaked in the mid-1970's, would be shocked to witness the grinding poverty that permeates its small towns today. The issue of poverty drives the meth market in multiple ways. The ingestion of meth can temporarily alleviate the depression and hopelessness of a single mother who just completed a double shift slitting chicken bellies at the local Tyson plant. The production of meth in rural basements, a relatively simple but risky endeavor, is a cottage industry that offers low startup costs and large returns to those meth cooks who manage to avoid arrest or incineration. Poverty and lack of decent employment tend to drive rural youths to the West coast and California, where their habit eventually hooks them up with big-time distributors who in turn employ them to funnel meth back to their home town in return for a cut of the cash and goods. To make matters worse, large processing plants and pig farm factories actively solicit Mexican citizens to cross the border and work for subsistence wages ("First 6 months of housing provided free!"). Although the vast majority of these workers are husbands and fathers desperate to provide a higher standard of living for their families, a fraction of this workforce is inevitably involved in siphoning drugs from Mexico into Small Town, USA. Corporate culpability doesn't end with agribusiness. Big Pharma has used its massive economic power and lobbying skills to fight meth regulation at every turn. Why waste a relatively modest sum of money adding an element to cold pills that will render them useless for meth making when only half of that sum can "convince" Congress to avoid requiring the additive at all? After all, they argue, they make a legal product for a legal purpose. Why should they have to spend one penny because some societal misfit may personally choose to commit a criminal act? Why indeed. Ironically, one of the final reasons for meth's prevalence in the heartland is the work ethic of its people. Most drugs don't help work performance. Mention "severe drug addict" and most people envision a lethargic, unemployed couch surfer who lives off friends and relatives until they finally throw him/her out. In contrast, meth (at least initially) boosts concentration and energy, allowing the user to work two and three jobs, performing for weeks with minimal sleep until the inevitable crash. Small town rural people who pride themselves on hard work and self-sufficiency often succumb to meth as a temporary way to "hold it all together" while they work through a financial crisis (divorce, sick child, loss of benefits) that requires them to work long hours without relief. Temporary use is seldom temporary for long. I've laid out the general framework of Nick Reding's book, but the real power of his work comes from personal interviews and the hard-to-hear stories of working people who have been destroyed directly or indirectly by the meth trade. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand meth addiction and, more importantly, the largely unreported societal malaise that is sapping the life from rural America.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This examines a small town in Iowa called Oelwein and how it has changed, much for the worse, over the last thirty years. The author uses Oelwein as a microcosm of small-town U.S.A. – and he does provide examples of other towns. So to some extent he replaces our idyll of white picket fences with houses blowing up when the local methamphetamine producers’ home-made lab goes awry. We are provided with a very good historical overview of Oelwein where the large meat-packing plant laid off substantial This examines a small town in Iowa called Oelwein and how it has changed, much for the worse, over the last thirty years. The author uses Oelwein as a microcosm of small-town U.S.A. – and he does provide examples of other towns. So to some extent he replaces our idyll of white picket fences with houses blowing up when the local methamphetamine producers’ home-made lab goes awry. We are provided with a very good historical overview of Oelwein where the large meat-packing plant laid off substantial numbers of workers and was later replaced by another company that paid minimum wage – and then the entire operation finally closed up. Oelwein’s population decreased – lowering the tax revenues. Methamphetamine moved in, providing some locals with a new revenue source and others with entertainment. For the uninitiated, like me, methamphetamine is highly addictive and gives a high that can last over 12 hours (by comparison crack is about 15 minutes). Over time you need more and more of it to get high – and one of the long term effects can be permanent neurological damage. A pregnant woman can pass these effects unto her baby. Users can experience very vivid hallucinations and one gets a feeling of being omnipotent. The substances to make it are (or were) legal – you can go to any drugstore – but chemical processing is required after – which is illegal. The author also explains that there are various global factors at play – the meat packing companies close plants and lower wages – and hire migrant workers from Mexico; the large pharmaceutical companies make money from selling the illegal ingredients – and drug trafficking organizations from Mexico buy the drugs in bulk quantities and funnel them up to the U.S. via the migrant labour. A very small percentage of the migrant labour force is involved with the transportation and distribution of drugs on the vast migrant network that extends over all of the U.S.A. Some dealers will masquerade as labourers when in fact they are outright drug dealers. The NAFTA agreement (North American Free Trade Agreement) was also a bonus to the Mexican drug cartel. The author also demonstrates how the drug dealers adapt quickly to legislation passed by governments that attempt to curtail the drug trade. When legislation is passed the local drug dealer’s (the mom and pop chemical shops) take over; but eventually the large dealers in Mexico find another distributor or source. For instance, they started buying a key ingredient for methamphetamine from China which does not follow U.S. and U.N. regulations concerning drugs. The poverty inflicted by closing plants in small towns creates an environment where methamphetamine becomes acceptable. Methamphetamine allows one to stay awake for long periods of time – so users can hold onto two jobs. Small towns do not have the layers of large cities and they are becoming poorer and poorer. Addicts in small towns, like Oelwein, will have limited access to recovery centres and drug counselors. Children, who are removed from their homes, because their parents were methamphetamine addicts, may not be diagnosed properly. Methamphetamine releases fumes which can cause brain damage to all inhabitants of the house – and to the police when they arrest the inhabitants. This book provides an examination of how a small town deteriorates over a number of years. We are provided with several agonizing pictures of individuals (addicts, doctors, police, counselors...). We could have done without the details of Nathan Lein girlfriends and the relation of them to his parents – I didn’t see how that fitted into this otherwise excellent portrayal. This was a world I was unfamiliar with. The author provided us with not only a view of Oelwein, but how it is related to the global world - companies using non-unionized workers, pharmaceutical companies not caring who is buying their product, and the drug cartels adapting quickly to any change in their market. It would seem that Oelwein was readjusting positively, meth-houses are decreasing and there are fewer arrests of meth-addicts – but how real is this new-found prosperity – and the meth problem may just have re-concentrated in another town down the road.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I went into this book hoping to gain an understanding of drug addiction, and in a way it gave me that. There is no stronger message of the adverse affects of drugs on the mind and body than Roland Jarvis literally melting in the fire caused by his meth lab. But Reding also does two things with this story of an addictive drug in a small town which is 1.) attempting to really get at the root of the problem, the cause of this whole mess and 2.) looking at the big picture and the overall consequence I went into this book hoping to gain an understanding of drug addiction, and in a way it gave me that. There is no stronger message of the adverse affects of drugs on the mind and body than Roland Jarvis literally melting in the fire caused by his meth lab. But Reding also does two things with this story of an addictive drug in a small town which is 1.) attempting to really get at the root of the problem, the cause of this whole mess and 2.) looking at the big picture and the overall consequences of meth. In regards to the cause of the problem, Reding's argument is the industrialization of agriculture in the 1980's. Prior to this, working class people in rural America had good paying jobs that brought home the bacon. In the case of Oelwein a meat packing plant that is central to their economy gets sold a few times and de-unionized and the workers find themselves working for half of what they used to make with twice the amount of hours. And if you're Jarvis the superhuman energy that comes from meth use is the best way to cope with that kind of a job. Although I'd be curious to see case studies of other towns, I thought it was an interesting connection. When you have a crap job or no job at all in a town that has few to start with, you're more than likely to turn to something such as meth. As for the big picture, Reding shows how bringing down the mom-and-pop meth labs actually made the fight against meth more difficult. As he follows Lori Arnold - whom I couldn't help but admire for her entrepreneurship, albeit illegal - he shows how Mexican drug organizations filled the vacuum when she was arrested by the Feds. He even ties in the illegal immigration issue by saying that some of the individuals working for the organizations get the crap jobs at just the sort of place that doesn't verify their citizenship as a cover while they deal drugs. I admit I could not help but feel uneasy at this claim, given many of the accusations of illegal immigrants as good-for-nothing-criminals that I heard when we had that contentious debate. I feel its important to keep in mind that while some may be up to no good, as Reding shows, not all are like this. Towards the end of the book he even ties in terrorism, which I felt wasn't necessary, but I couldn't follow his logic anyway, so I can't say. I became a little weary of the personal parts in the book, such as the public prosecutor, the town doctor, and the mayor. It felt a little at hockey at parts, but still I couldn't blame these individuals for their weariness. They worked hard for the town they loved, and it was all a Sisyphean struggle, seeing no good come of this, watching people make the same stupid mistakes and waste all their potential, waste the town's potential such as it was. The author makes another stretch that I thought was unnecessary. From the Midwest himself, his father worked for Monsanto for thirty some years and worked his way up. I don't know if he felt guilt from this connection, or whether he was trying to show what a small world it was, how decisions his father made may have placed Jarvis in that house fire. Everyone has their role it seems, no matter which side they're on.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I'm tempted to describe how the initial rush of the first chapter couldn't be replicated but that I still couldn't put the book down, and when finished I wound up cooking it and smoking it. I know that's juvenile, but one of my favorite editors once said "go with the gag" when in doubt, so fuck it. This book has very good long term reporting about the international networks that have made meth American as apple pie, using a town in Iowa's struggles with the drug as a focal point. At times I felt I'm tempted to describe how the initial rush of the first chapter couldn't be replicated but that I still couldn't put the book down, and when finished I wound up cooking it and smoking it. I know that's juvenile, but one of my favorite editors once said "go with the gag" when in doubt, so fuck it. This book has very good long term reporting about the international networks that have made meth American as apple pie, using a town in Iowa's struggles with the drug as a focal point. At times I felt a bit too much of the author's presence, as is the case in many otherwise good pieces in Harper's, which Reding has written for. It's also hampered, as a native Iowan reader elsewhere on goodreads (who also complains about lack of geographical fact checking) notes, the book is hampered by lack of endnotes. Surely for use by public policy activists and other writers, footnotes are essential, no? Alas, the current state of publishing is such that that's not the case. All hail the miracles of the fucking marketplace.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Nick Reding begins "Methland" high in the sky over "flyover country", the huge, flat expanse of land between the two coasts. He subsequently zooms in, down into the communties and the lives of those affected by the social, political and economic trends that led formerly self sufficient communites and individuals to become hobbled and susceptible to a scourge both internal and external. He zooms out again to examine these larger trends on a global scale and back in once more to see how they affec Nick Reding begins "Methland" high in the sky over "flyover country", the huge, flat expanse of land between the two coasts. He subsequently zooms in, down into the communties and the lives of those affected by the social, political and economic trends that led formerly self sufficient communites and individuals to become hobbled and susceptible to a scourge both internal and external. He zooms out again to examine these larger trends on a global scale and back in once more to see how they affect the lives of the townspeople of Oelwein, Iowa. This focusing and refocusing continues throughout the book as Reding weaves a series of vignettes of life in small town USA in the time of meth with larger examinations of the trends that led to where we are today. He looks at the role Big Agra companies like Cargill and ConAgra had in the consolidation of all aspects of farming in these communites and the subsequent replacement of union workers making living wages with illegal immigrants making close to nothing, often at the behest of these companies as they advertise in border towns in Mexico offering two free months rent if you can make it to their plant in the Mid West. This consolidation in the agricultural industry dovetailed with a similar consolidation in the meth industry along the same lines; hence with the shutdown of small batch labs in the late 90s and early 00s, meth production and distribution was taken over by Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and brought to the US with these same illegal immigrants. Reding only gently condemns these practices; rather he focuses more on their effect on the lives of the people of Oelwein, IA: the philosphical county prosecutor who deals daily with the end results of meth addiction; the mayor struggling to rebuild both the town's infrastructure and its self esteem in order to lure new business to town; the country doctor, overwhelmed by treating meth addicts in the local hospital and also dealing with consolidation in health care; the small batch cook who literally cooks his skin off his body one night; the reformed tweaker and father struggling to maintain sobriety. These character sketches are vivid and thoughtful and illustrate the character of this town even as it struggles to redefine itself in the midst of titanic change. What Reding doesn't do, and he should be lauded for this, is view addiction in a simplistic, moralistic way. Other reviews I've read have taken him to task for this but you'd have to be pretty narrowminded to think that a person has legitimate choices in a world where massive forces are arrayed against them. It's a popular and romantic notion that individuals are the masters of their fates, but the reality is much more complicated: global economic and political trends affect communities and people suffer. Some small percentage of them, for whatever biological or personality related reason, will turn to drugs to cope. In the end, "Methland" is a thoughful examination of what it means to be a small town in Middle America in the beginning of the 21st Century as it struggles against massive odds not to thrive but simply to survive.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sera

    According to Nick Reding: "The argument I make in the book is very simple: The harder it is for people to make money honestly, the easier it will be for an increasingly large portion to chose to make it dishonestly." Reding does an excellent job of tying the prolific nature of meth in rural America into who we are as a nation and describing the path that we took to get there. Reding primarily focuses on one town, Olewin, Iowa when telling his story, because it provided a good example of how over According to Nick Reding: "The argument I make in the book is very simple: The harder it is for people to make money honestly, the easier it will be for an increasingly large portion to chose to make it dishonestly." Reding does an excellent job of tying the prolific nature of meth in rural America into who we are as a nation and describing the path that we took to get there. Reding primarily focuses on one town, Olewin, Iowa when telling his story, because it provided a good example of how over time, a town can go from moderate economic comfort to desolation. Reding understands that there is plenty of blame to go around here and gives excellent examples of how Big Agra and Big Pharma both played a role in the meth epidemic and the rise of the DTOs in Mexico and the stronghold that they now have over the meth market in the United States. However, Reding also gives us hope by showing how the mayor of Olewin came up with creative ways in which to draw jobs to his small town while cleaning it up and rebuilding its infrastructure at the same time. The only downside of the book is that it's dated already, albeit through no fault of the author. I am curious to see how things are going for the town now, so I googled it, and what I found was pretty interesting. Here's a blurb from an interview last year, which can be found in full at http://www.thefix.com/content/methlan... "Jeff Deeney: Have you been back to Oelwein since the book was first released? Nick Reding: Yes. Several times. The paperback version of my book has a new afterwards about my first visit back, when I appeared at a town hall meeting at which a lot of local people got a chance to vent their spleen at me. There had been a big uproar after Methland was published because many residents felt that I had maligned their town, sensationalizing it, painting things blacker than they were. I got death threats and all kinds of negative stuff. So we all needed to take a few hours to clear the air. It was not a particularly great experience, as you can imagine, but at least the death threats stopped. Deeney: How have things changed there in terms of the meth problem and the local economy, the two main subjects of your book? Reding: Both have gotten better—against all odds—given the collapse of the financial markets and the continuing recession. For some reason Oelwein has bucked the national trend. They’ve also moved their meth problem in the right direction. The down side is that all the problems that were plaguing hat town have moved across the street and down the road—the same poverty, crime, drug addiction, and at the same order of magnitude." The foregoing leads me to believe that the actual root causes of the meth problem are still not being addressed. No surprises there, right? Overall, an important book about a problem that continues to plague small town USA. I recommend reading it because it's another important layer in what has been happening in the US over the last two decades.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Fantastically and unexpectedly comprehensive exploration of meth, from small-town individuals to the global politics and channels that allow for and feed the industry. Every time that I had a question about something mentioned in passing, it was satisfactorily answered within a few pages. Exceedingly well-paced. Reding refreshingly never shies from presenting both sides of an issue or story, saving this book from coming across as a simplistically didactic cautionary morality play. He respects nu Fantastically and unexpectedly comprehensive exploration of meth, from small-town individuals to the global politics and channels that allow for and feed the industry. Every time that I had a question about something mentioned in passing, it was satisfactorily answered within a few pages. Exceedingly well-paced. Reding refreshingly never shies from presenting both sides of an issue or story, saving this book from coming across as a simplistically didactic cautionary morality play. He respects nuance. Two small complaints that don't bother me enough to remove a star from my rating: the "just folks" colloquialisms can occasionally grate (though, to be fair, they are instrumental in establishing the character of the towns and the people), and after finding not a single questionable grammar decision in the entire book, on the *second-to-last page*, there's a baffling use of "nadir" where "zenith" should be -- I'm assuming that this will be corrected in later editions, because the rest of the book is so carefully composed that this must have been a flaw somehow too obvious to notice.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    A native midwesterner, Reding spent a few years imbedded in the small town of Oelwein, Iowa, reporting on its meth epidemic and teasing out larger conclusions about small town, largely midwest meth. There are quite a few fascinating tidbits - similar to the Wire, Reding writes the "good guys" as being flawed people, with alcohol problems and intimacy issues, and some of those who are methed out as being good people who took a wrong path. Occasionally this results in repetition - the same story is A native midwesterner, Reding spent a few years imbedded in the small town of Oelwein, Iowa, reporting on its meth epidemic and teasing out larger conclusions about small town, largely midwest meth. There are quite a few fascinating tidbits - similar to the Wire, Reding writes the "good guys" as being flawed people, with alcohol problems and intimacy issues, and some of those who are methed out as being good people who took a wrong path. Occasionally this results in repetition - the same story is told in a few different chapters a few different times. (My favorite part was the fact that a semi-famous Iowa comedian has a sister who was a HUGE meth kingpin.) Sometimes there are some methy stories that almost seem like urban legends (melting testicles?) but the sad part is that I sense that they are not. REding does a good job in showing how the war on drugs actually made meth production grow, and the part played by big pharma. He also really breaks down smalltown midwestern life, where I grew up.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Deborah

    Too many factual errors in this book to make it credible. Others have cited the "minor" errors in calling Iowa City the state's largest city and placing the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Rapids. For crying out loud, take two minutes to look at a map if you've going to write a book set in the state. More egregious is when the author asserts that most of the Mexican immigrants in Oelwein work at the "John Deere plant." There are five Deere facilities in Waterloo, but if Reding is referring t Too many factual errors in this book to make it credible. Others have cited the "minor" errors in calling Iowa City the state's largest city and placing the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Rapids. For crying out loud, take two minutes to look at a map if you've going to write a book set in the state. More egregious is when the author asserts that most of the Mexican immigrants in Oelwein work at the "John Deere plant." There are five Deere facilities in Waterloo, but if Reding is referring to the Tractor Works, the largest, then he is flat out wrong according to an authority I happen to know very well indeed. Most jobs at any Deere factory require technical education that few of the recent immigrants would possess. Some line workers even have college degrees. Unfortunately for them, most of the Mexicans were/are relegated to the meatpacking industry. I don't doubt Reding's general gist is true, but I'd rather read a more trustworthy version.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eris

    While this work contains much important information, it suffers from too much tangential rambling. A small amount of that is alright in any nonfiction exploratory social piece, but the writer does go a bit overboard with it at times. The parallels Reding draws between the job loss/wage slash situation and the upswing in meth use/manufacturing are great and very valid - the links he makes between illegal immigration and the same are somewhat valid but a bit stretched in proportion. Overall, is a go While this work contains much important information, it suffers from too much tangential rambling. A small amount of that is alright in any nonfiction exploratory social piece, but the writer does go a bit overboard with it at times. The parallels Reding draws between the job loss/wage slash situation and the upswing in meth use/manufacturing are great and very valid - the links he makes between illegal immigration and the same are somewhat valid but a bit stretched in proportion. Overall, is a good documentary of the progression of meth use in our small towns and presents a good if somewhat limited vision of what the social effects are.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Malissa

    I couldn't finish this book. His editor sadly failed him. It seemed like the author tried to make each sentence more complicated than the next, making the book cumbersome to read. Just couldn't keep going! I couldn't finish this book. His editor sadly failed him. It seemed like the author tried to make each sentence more complicated than the next, making the book cumbersome to read. Just couldn't keep going!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Nick Reding is a born writer and Methland is a wonderful book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Grace Houghton

    Quality journalism. Totally engrossing, and sobering, packed full of information and populated with real people with whom Reding spent days and weeks. Whether it's a chemist or politician or a recovering addict or a dealer, everyone is a human in this book - and sounds like one, too. Quality journalism. Totally engrossing, and sobering, packed full of information and populated with real people with whom Reding spent days and weeks. Whether it's a chemist or politician or a recovering addict or a dealer, everyone is a human in this book - and sounds like one, too.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    It takes many, many villains to create a disaster on the scale of the world-wide epidemic caused by meth. The author takes on the familiar villains – including but not limited to Mexican drug couriers, plus “Big Pharma” and its political protectors, both high and low – who are damned not by overheated rhetoric but by the simple listing of the facts. I was happy to see the author take on another type of villain, which thoughtful writers and journalists in the US today seem to shy away from, perha It takes many, many villains to create a disaster on the scale of the world-wide epidemic caused by meth. The author takes on the familiar villains – including but not limited to Mexican drug couriers, plus “Big Pharma” and its political protectors, both high and low – who are damned not by overheated rhetoric but by the simple listing of the facts. I was happy to see the author take on another type of villain, which thoughtful writers and journalists in the US today seem to shy away from, perhaps for fear of being seen as snobbish and/or a member of the so-called “liberal mainstream media”. This is the flag-waving, motorcycled-riding, grey-ponytailed, Fox-News-watching Willie-Nelson-wannabes (and female analogs) whose vituperative objections to big government are actually a fig leaf to cover their real agenda, which is the unobstructed participation in the exploitation of the weakness of others, meaning, in this case, manufacturing and selling drugs, both legal (like alcohol) and illegal, often to children. To be fair, I know that not all flag-waving, motorcycled-riding, etc., are drug dealers. Some of them are proctologists having a mid-life crisis. Apologies to offended proctologists. Similarly, it was good to see an author with the intestinal fortitude to buck another current trend in stereotypes and attempt a positive portrayal of law enforcement. Very unfashionable. I can just see in my mind's eye the poor guy standing alone with his plastic glass of white wine at some New York Review of Books soirée. I hope that Reding could at least get a spot near the buffet. A good cheese can be a real comfort in time of distress. On the other hand, Reding also indicates that a top-down government-led program to clean up the town and revitalize the town center was successful, which should also render him lonely at buffets paid for by the other end of the political spectrum as well. I seem to have wandered a bit from my original brief. The repeated references to buffet-attendance may reflect my attempts at dieting, or perhaps I just shouldn't write so close to lunch. In any case, read a better review of this book at “Sophisticated Dorkiness”, an award winning blog about non-fiction writing, here.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Nick Reding's "Methland" works not just as a compassionate view of the human beings caught in the meth epidemic in America's heartland but as a sober review of the economic forces and policy choices that made agricultural communities the perfect victim for this kind of drug. For the human side, Reding spends time with both community leaders--the doctor, the prosecutor, and a visionary mayor--and those who have profited from it. Although profit is not really their ultimate fate, as the dealers an Nick Reding's "Methland" works not just as a compassionate view of the human beings caught in the meth epidemic in America's heartland but as a sober review of the economic forces and policy choices that made agricultural communities the perfect victim for this kind of drug. For the human side, Reding spends time with both community leaders--the doctor, the prosecutor, and a visionary mayor--and those who have profited from it. Although profit is not really their ultimate fate, as the dealers and the cook portrayed in the book have undergone prison time, suffered horrifically disfiguring burns, and have the special agony of monitoring a baby for the effects of being around meth. Still, Redick is not judgmental, and these people are fully human, residents of a rural America as devastated by the loss of meatpacking jobs and the farm crisis as the cities were by the flight of manufacturing and with a tax base too dismal to fund any coping mechanisms. Those employed work have lower-paying jobs and work hideously long hours, which makes meth look in the short run like manna. At the same time, the Reagan administration, with their anti-drug mantra "Just Say No" let its friends in Big Pharma gut legislation that would have made precursors for meth less accessible. "Methland" actually takes place in the last decade, during what I think of as the second phase of the epidemic, a time when cold medicine was widely available and demand exploded. By the time states started monitoring and restricting access to precursors, demand was high enough and the cartels filled the gap. The book was published about the time "Breaking Bad" debuted. I could never watch that show, because it seemed so detached from reality; to me it looked like a fable with no convictions, with a hero--nobly motivated by the cost of his cancer--who was yet smart and vicious enough to outwit the show's feeble portrayal of cartels. "Methland"'s dealers and its cook do not have such noble motives, but they are recognizable human, a remarkable achievement.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    I keep reading books about meth, and I keep finding myself engrossed in the stories. Methland starts where Beautiful Boy and Tweak leave off. Those books are excruciating personal family stories, one written by the father (David Sheff), one by the son (Nic Sheff), about the son's addiction and the repercussions on the lives of the family members as well as the addict. Set in California, they chronicle Nic's descent from healthy, successful college-bound high school student to the life of an addi I keep reading books about meth, and I keep finding myself engrossed in the stories. Methland starts where Beautiful Boy and Tweak leave off. Those books are excruciating personal family stories, one written by the father (David Sheff), one by the son (Nic Sheff), about the son's addiction and the repercussions on the lives of the family members as well as the addict. Set in California, they chronicle Nic's descent from healthy, successful college-bound high school student to the life of an addict in and out of rehab.[return]Methland is an investigation into what meth is doing to rural America, who the culprits are, and who the heroes are. Methland addresses the problem of what the culture of the drug is doing to small towns and also to America as a whole. Reding investigates how meth infiltrated one small town in Iowa (and across the nation), what the government is and isn't doing about it, Mexico's role, the role of the food industry, and the local people who are giving their careers and lives to try to stop this controversial epidemic. He develops relationships with addicts, politicians, and cops over a few years (2005-8) and lets readers meet these people and learn how their issues came to be. An engaging book, this should be read by politicians and citizens interested in the ramifications of addiction on the American Dream.[return]My only complaint is that I would have liked to see an index in this book. That would have made it more helpful for future researchers. Otherwise I highly recommend Methland, as well as the books by David and Nic Sheff. David Sheff was an author and journalist before writing Beautiful Boy, which is evident by the writing, and I recommend to adults. Tweak, written by the son Nic, isn't as well-written, but it is exciting to read the tale told by the addict. I would recommend Tweak to high school juniors and seniors (it is sexually explicit, so it would depend upon your community). Methland is good for 11th grade and up.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kkraemer

    The importance of this book is summed up at the end when Reding notes that you can't solve a problem that you don't see. Just before that, he watches a teacher and a tweaker go out of a door and realizes that neither of those people have any idea of the world of the other. I had that feeling as I read this book. I knew that many in rural America have been hit by job losses caused by technology and, to some degree, by off-shoring. What I didn't realize is the devastation that has been wrought by t The importance of this book is summed up at the end when Reding notes that you can't solve a problem that you don't see. Just before that, he watches a teacher and a tweaker go out of a door and realizes that neither of those people have any idea of the world of the other. I had that feeling as I read this book. I knew that many in rural America have been hit by job losses caused by technology and, to some degree, by off-shoring. What I didn't realize is the devastation that has been wrought by the consolidation of ag industries and the complete decimation of the unions. People who once earned $18./hour now earn about $6./hour for the same job. It should come as no surprise that they turn to a cheap to make and highly profitable to provide way of making money. I also didn't think about the amount of money the drug companies have poured into fighting proposals to keep access open to central ingredients needed to make meth. Allowing them to become banned would cost the drug companies lots of money, and using a central database to track consumers' buying habits would cause problems, they say...so meth continues to cause terrible problems. Reding looks at a small town in Iowa, some actual human beings, and piles and piles of statistics in making the argument that meth is, indeed, a crisis that is destroying small-town America. Now that I've read it, I'm worried...and I really don't know what can be done about a drug that promises euphoria, slenderness, and the energy to work hard and long. It's sort of the American dream, but it can eat people's lives and brains. This should be required reading for all Americans. Perhaps then we could come up with a coherent response to this scourge.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Connor

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Very interesting read. Not really a review - just some of my own personal observations: Chapter 1 touched on some of the content I learned about in the book Blitzed, which I had somewhat recently read. I was familiar with the terms Temmler and Pervatin because of that, which was interesting. Chapter 2 mentioned that Roland Jarvis was at one point staying inside all the time, not unlike Boo Radley, and I had just read TKAM for the first time - cool coincidence. Chapter 6 talked about a company cal Very interesting read. Not really a review - just some of my own personal observations: Chapter 1 touched on some of the content I learned about in the book Blitzed, which I had somewhat recently read. I was familiar with the terms Temmler and Pervatin because of that, which was interesting. Chapter 2 mentioned that Roland Jarvis was at one point staying inside all the time, not unlike Boo Radley, and I had just read TKAM for the first time - cool coincidence. Chapter 6 talked about a company called Warner Lambert the was developing a cold medication that could not be further manufactured into illicit materials. When they were bought by Pfizer in 2000, the pursuit of the medication was abandoned because W-L had already had such an easy time lobbying Congress, why not just carry on in the same manner? They also talked about mirror image drugs in this chapter which was really interesting and reminds me of the thalidomide tragedy and the chirality of molecules. One form may be perfectly safe while the other has devastating consequences. Chapter 7 discussed how Chief of Police Logan had his deputies pull over cars for every ticky-tack infraction, which reminded me of an excerpt from yet another book I recently read, Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell, in which a police officer pulled over a woman in Texas for not using her turn signal, which escalated into a national event. While theses are two different scenarios completely, as well as the very different issues behind them, it made a loose connection for me during reading.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    This noteworthy book was certainly an eye-opener for me. My vision of midwest small-town America was steeped in the stories of my mother's annual visits in the 1930's from Chicago to her cousins who lived in northwest Iowa--on a farm. Yes, Iowa's small farm towns possessed all that is right and great with America--hard work, simple but worthwhile lives, and a golden goodness. When I traveled to Iowa for family reunion picnics in the '60's, 70's and into the 80's little I saw would tarnish this i This noteworthy book was certainly an eye-opener for me. My vision of midwest small-town America was steeped in the stories of my mother's annual visits in the 1930's from Chicago to her cousins who lived in northwest Iowa--on a farm. Yes, Iowa's small farm towns possessed all that is right and great with America--hard work, simple but worthwhile lives, and a golden goodness. When I traveled to Iowa for family reunion picnics in the '60's, 70's and into the 80's little I saw would tarnish this idyllic picture of small-town American farm life. Well, this book changed all of that. What a tragedy. Reding, in his analysis of why this has happened, spreads the blame around to the usual suspects--big agricultural companies, lobbying of special interest groups, pharmaceutical giants, members of both the Senate and House kowtowing to these lobbyists, and the indifference of both both coasts to the problems of small town middle America. Reding's style is refreshing. He embedded himself into these small towns such as Oelwein IA and weaves his story around the people he meets. He also has researched and writes clearly about the very complicated issue of crystal methamphetamine addiction. He cleverly and accurately labels this egregious drug as the first vocational drug. This book may change the way you thinks about how this country is run.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alexa Poeter

    Graphic and disturbing account of how Methamphetamine rose in middle America in the 80's & 90's. Reding gets to the heart of the heartland's small town demise and addiction to Meth. He supplies ample evidence of how economic, food and drug policies along with manufacturing and immigration trends (not isolated from these same policies) helped make the meth lab as common as McDonalds are across middle America. We get to know the characters (the law enforcement officials, the addicts, the dealers, Graphic and disturbing account of how Methamphetamine rose in middle America in the 80's & 90's. Reding gets to the heart of the heartland's small town demise and addiction to Meth. He supplies ample evidence of how economic, food and drug policies along with manufacturing and immigration trends (not isolated from these same policies) helped make the meth lab as common as McDonalds are across middle America. We get to know the characters (the law enforcement officials, the addicts, the dealers, the cooks) well and Reding writes with an insiders voice, having come from one of the towns he explores in the book. Why not a 5? Well - I think it would have been a 5 if I knew a little more about economic and drug policy. I found some of the detailed explanation tedious - but hey that is really my ignorance speaking more than his ability to write. Its the kind of book you might read again someday (although you might have to skip over the scene where a man, recently burned when his meth lab exploded, peels the skin of his forearms because he is still hallucinating from the meth).

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