Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Little Oelwein, Iowa, (population: 6,692) stands at the junction of Highways 3 and 150 and near the center of a midwest meth epidemic that is only recently beginning to lift. In hardcover, Nick Reding's Methland narrative about this scourge and the global forces that helped it develop earned stellar reviews for its character studies and scrupulous reporting. Now in paperback.

From the Publisher
“[Reding's] immersive reporting and artful writing bring one of the most intractable social issues of our time—the meth epidemic—into visceral, heartbreaking relief.” - Jim Frederick, TIME

 “Methland tells a story less about crime than about the death of an iconic way of life.” —Details

 

Methland is definitely worthwhile reading. In some circles it should be required reading. This isn’t just a small town issue or an Iowa issue.  This is an American issue.” —Oelwein Daily Register

 

 “What’s most impressive about Methland is not only the wealth of information it provides but the depth of Reding’s compassion for the individuals meth has touched: the heroes, the helpless witnesses, the innocent victims—and even the perpetrators—of this American crisis.”—Francine Prose, O Magazine

 

 “A powerful work of reportage. . . a clear-eyed look at a scourge that continues to afflict wide swaths of American society—whether we want to acknowledge it or not.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

 

 “‘Vicious cycle’ is not an adequate term.  As Reding painstakingly presents it, the production, distribution and consumption of methamphetamine is a self-catalyzing catastrophe of Chernobylish dimensions.  The rich, with their far-off, insulated lives, get richer and more detached, while the poor get high, and finally, wasted.”—Walter Kirn, New York Times Book Review

 

Methland is a stunning look at a problem that has dire consequences for our country.”—New York Post

 

“The strength of Methland lies in its character studies.  As a ‘social problem’ meth is dull and intractable, as are all such problems; reduced, or rather elevated, to the individual level, it is piercing and poignant.  Mr. Reding’s heart is in the right place.”—Wall Street Journal

 

“Reding’s group portrait of Oelwein’s residents is nuanced and complex in a way that journalists’ depictions of the rural Midwest rarely are; he has a keen eye for details.” —Washington Monthly

 

“Through scrupulous reporting and fierce moral engagement, Reding conveys the tragedy of the meth epidemic on both a mirco- and macroscopic level.”—Village Voice

 

Methland makes the case that small-town America is perhaps not the moral and hard-working place of the public imagination, but it also argues that big-city ignorance—fueled by the media—toward small town decay is both dangerous and appalling.” —Washington Post

 

 “This is a strong book, and it tells a complicated story in comprehensible, human dimensions.  Like all good journalism, it’s the hand holding up the mirror, the friend telling us to take a cold, hard look at ourselves.”—Los Angeles Times

 

"This is a meticulously researched, quietly brilliant and unexpectedly moving account of a town’s descent, and of its struggle to pull itself back from the edge." - The Millions, staff pick

 

Methland paints a new American Gothic, not of artistic and architectural importance but of literary significance, capturing the gloom and decay of once bright and thriving small-town America. Reding is part barefoot epidemiologist, a bit of an armchair anthropologist, and insightful amateur psychologist, an indefatigable road warrior, but most of all, a gifted storyteller who forces readers to suspend reality, placing them among his vivid cast of characters.” - PsycCritiques

Walter Kirn
Think globally, suffer locally. This could be the moral of Methland, Nick Reding’s unnerving investigative account of two gruesome years in the life of Oelwein, Iowa, a railroad and meatpacking town of several thousand whipped by a methamphetamine-laced panic whose origins lie outside the place itself, in forces almost too great to comprehend and too pitiless to bear. The ravages of meth, or "crank," on Oelwein and countless forsaken locales much like it are shown to be merely superficial symptoms of a vaster social dementia caused by, among other things, the iron dominion of corporate agriculture and the slow melting of villages and families into the worldwide financial stew.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Using what he calls a "live-in reporting strategy," Reding's chronicle of a small-town crystal meth epidemic-about "the death of a way of life as much as... about the birth of a drug"-revolves around tiny Oelwein, Iowa, a 6,000-resident farming town nearly destroyed by the one-two punch of Big Agriculture modernization and skyrocketing meth production. Reding's wide cast of characters includes a family doctor, the man "in the best possible position from which to observe the meth phenomenon"; an addict who blew up his mother's house while cooking the stuff; and Lori Arnold (sister of actor Tom Arnold) who, as a teenager, built an extensive and wildly profitable crank empire in Ottumwa, Iowa (not once, but twice). Reding is at his best relating the bizarre, violent and disturbing stories from four years of research; heftier topics like big business and globalization, although fascinating, seem just out of Reding's weight class. A fascinating read for those with the stomach for it, Reding's unflinching look at a drug's rampage through the heartland stands out in an increasingly crowded field.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

A thoughtful exploration of the methamphetamine epidemic in the context of small-town America, this work centers on tiny Oelwein, IA, a microcosm of the devastating dynamic among rural life, economic instability, and meth. Reding (The Last Cowboys at the End of the World) studies macro-level forces, from the international drug trade to the influence of interest groups on U.S. regulatory activity. He traces the allure of meth production and consumption, faulting economic disadvantage and, in turn, the consolidation of the American food industry (crucial to Oelwein's troubles was the merger, and then closing, of a meatpacking plant). The book's power derives, however, from the immediacy and everyday reality of one small town, where Reding immerses himself, spending months with several heroic if hardly perfect residents-the doctor, prosecutor, and mayor-and two local meth addicts. With personal ties to the rural Midwest and to addiction, Reding is sympathetic and humane. He leaves Oelwein in the midst of a fragile but hopeful renaissance, with a new industrial park, library, and expanded downtown. The awareness remains that ruin can arrive anytime, by means of a drug that can be made in a kitchen sink. Recommended for general readers.
—Janet Ingraham Dwyer

Kirkus Reviews
Nightmarish story of methamphetamine in rural America. First synthesized in 1898, methamphetamine was long marketed legally in the United States. Despite its "anti-social" side effects, the drug was used by soldiers, truckers and others who wanted to stay alert, until the early 1980s, when bike gangs began making a purer form-crank-illegally. In this richly textured account, Reding (The Last Cowboys at the End of the World: The Story of the Gouchos of Patagonia, 2001) traces the astonishing rise of meth use across the Midwest, focusing on Oelwein, an Iowa railroad town (pop. 6,772) that by 2005 had been "destroyed" by the drug. Wracked by poverty, unemployment and farm failures, the town's major growth industry has been meth, which can be made cheaply in bathtubs from easily available ingredients-mainly cold medications from pharmacies and anhydrous ammonia obtained from farmers. Reding vividly re-creates the despair of a place overtaken by meth-its storefronts boarded, its frequently exploding meth labs belching toxins, its streets used to manufacture meth in bottles strapped to mountain bikes, its Do Drop Inn transformed into a meeting place for addicts. Among the many memorable characters are Roland Jarvis, a 20-year addict; Dr. Clay Hallberg, a general practitioner who treats the psychological and medical devastation wrought by meth (his own drug of choice is alcohol); Nathan Lein, a prosecutor hired to clean things up; and Mayor Larry Murphy, who revitalizes downtown streets but fears for Oelwein's future. The author describes the forces that have made the Midwest ground zero for meth use, including the meat-packing industry, whose illegal workers distribute the more powerful"crystal meth" manufactured by Mexican groups. Reding also shows how pharmaceutical-industry lobbyists blocked anti-meth legislation until passage of the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005-though even that act fails to prevent meth makers from obtaining cold medications at drugstores. CVS clerks are often in cahoots with the crooks, he writes. An important report on an extremely dangerous drug and the consequences of addiction. Author appearances in St. Louis and Iowa. Agent: Heather Schroder/ICM
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596916500
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 6/9/2009
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 443,629
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Nick Reding is the author of The Last Cowboys at the End of the World, and his writing has appeared in Outside, Food and Wine, and Harper’s. Born in St. Louis, he decided to move back to his hometown in the course of reporting this book.

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Read an Excerpt


METHLAND

The Death and Life of an American Small Town


By Nick Reding
BLOOMSBURY
Copyright © 2009

Nick Reding
All right reserved.



ISBN: 978-1-59691-650-0



Chapter One KANT'S LAMENT

Nathan Lein, the assistant Fayette County prosecutor, is twenty-eight years old. He has a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Luther College in Iowa, a low degree from Valparaiso State University in Indiana, and a master's in environmental law from the Vermont Law School. The latter two degrees he completed in an astonishing three years by attending Valpo, as it's called, in the fall, winter, and spring and then transferring credits to Vermont in order to get his master's after only three summers' worth of study. Meantime, Nathan, a white farm kid from rural Iowa, financed all of it by working as a bouncer in an all-black strip club in the industrial wasteland of Gary, Indiana.

Nathan is six feet nine inches tall and weighs 280 pounds. He moves with surprising grace around his tiny, four-room house in Oelwein's ninth ward. What evidence there is of the great burdens of Nathan's life is limited to a habit of slowly raising his hand to his face and then rubbing the tip of his nose in one quick motion, as if to remove a stain that only he can perceive. Perhaps knowing that his size will lend extra weight to whatever he says, Nathan fashions his sentences from the leanest fibers. It's a habit that underscores the gravity of the contradictions by which his life is defined.

Despite his size, Nathan-a card-carrying Republican-drives the same white, diesel Volkswagen Jetta that he has been driving for 177,000 miles, or the rough equivalent of seven circumnavigations of the globe, most of it logged within the confines of a single Iowa county. To court up in the town of West Union, he wears a gray suit, a white shirt, a blue tie, and a ring on each thumb. His hair is dark blond and is short on the sides and longer on top, where Nathan, aided by the stiffening properties of hair gel, arranges it in a way that looks like neat, stubbled rows of winter wheat. The name Lein is Norwegian; beneath a wide forehead, Nathan's eyes are sled-dog blue. On one window of Nathan's Jetta is a sticker for the hallucinogenic-hippy band Widespread Panic, whom Nathan goes to see whenever they are within a reasonable driving distance, which for him means about four hundred miles. Nathan has been to nineteen shows to date. In the trunk of the Jetta, there is a hunting vest in Mossy Oak camouflage, the pockets of which are stuffed with shotgun shells and wooden turkey calls; a cardboard crate of police reports and depositions; and a twelve gauge semiautomatic Winchester X2 shotgun.

It's mid-May 2005, and in the wake of a front that blew out of Regina, Saskatchewan, and overshot the Dakotas, the sky above Oelwein, Iowa, is gray and roiling. With more rain in the forecast, Nathan's father will be planting corn till long past dark on the farm where Nathan grew up, twelve miles outside town, hoping to get the year's crop seeded before the soil is too wet to plow. Meantime, there are plenty of chores to be done, most of which revolve around the fifty or so Lincoln long-wool and Corriedale sheep that Nathan's parents raise: sweeping the pens, freshening the water, feeding hay to the rams and ewes. Changed from his suit, Nathan pilots the white Jetta north along Highway 150 in ruined duck-cloth bibs and size-15 work boots. He passes Grace Methodist, somber and maroon-red in the long, sunless dusk, then turns west on Route 3. With the windows down, the late-day smells of cut grass and wet pavement underlaid with the sultry, textured depth of pig shit. Twenty miles distant, the western sky is bruised black and green in a way that has the Amish urging their Clydesdales onward at a trot along the shoulder of the road, the plastic rain-doors already zipped tight on their buggies.

The house where Nathan was born and raised is a white-clapboard three-bedroom that sits on a slight rise in the prairie at the end of a gravel road. It was built in 1910. The yaw in the place is visible, two or three degrees measured foundation to rooftop, northwest to southeast, as meaningful a testament as there is to the prevailing ferocity of the prairie wind. The views are stunning, as much for the austere grandeur as for the suffocating sense of desolation. From the driveway, mile after mile of newly planted corn and soybeans spread in every direction, interrupted now and again in the shifting line of sight by an evergreen shelter belt or an anemic finger of timber. The maples and oaks, like the farmhouses, have taken their chances against the weather for as long as anyone can remember. Out here, it seems, stubbornness is just a part of the landscape.

As is frugality. Inside the farmhouse, Nathan's mother and father stand in the kitchen, next to the sink. The rest of the room consists of a tiny four-burner stove, one bank of white wood cabinets, an Amish table with two chairs, and a small refrigerator. Stacked in piles throughout the room are dozens, if not hundreds, of agricultural bulletins, almanacs, magazines, and foldouts that the Leins pore over in an attempt to anticipate sheep and crop prices-Wallace's Farmer, Today's Farmer, Sheep magazine, the Corn Producer, the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman. There is no Internet and no computer, no fax machine or Blackberry. The only nod to modern technology aside from the wall-mounted phone is a small TV on the counter, on which Nathan's father watches (and talks back to) the two hosts of Market to Market every Friday night on PBS at eight V.M.

Every decision made by the Leins-how much corn seed to buy, and from whom; when to harvest; how long to hold the crop-is arrived at from a process of superimposition of dated economic information onto subtle, veinous changes of seasonal matter. What to do tomorrow depends on this week's weather relative to last year's yield, or on how today's futures markets at the Chicago Board of Trade relate to anticipated trends in Australian or Canadian wool production. In this way, the Leins are less like farmers and more like mystics clinging to belief in a hazy vision born not just of weather and organic chemistry, but of a hundred other unseen and uncontrollable forces. To look at them, leaning against the counter in the tiny kitchen, is to understand the connection between farming, itself an act of blindest faith, and religion. If you can believe in a year's worth of corn or beans, it seems, you can believe in anything.

Nathan's father, James, is sixty-nine years old. His hair is short and black, and his glasses are broken. Standing somewhat off-kilter from a bad back, in a red and blue work shirt, jeans, and sneakers, he looks fifty. His mother, Donna, who is seventy, has shoulder-length brown hair that is going gray. Dressed in jeans and a light gray wool sweater, she, too, looks younger than her years, though the arthritis from which she suffers is readily apparent in her hands, which are bent and knobbed at the joints like a bird of prey's claws. And though neither parent is short (James stands six feet, Donna five seven), it's unclear from whence Nathan got his tremendous size. Ducking as he entered the kitchen, with its low ceiling and peeling linoleum floor, Nathan had immediately filled the room, even as his parents seemed to shrink. The weight of his presence makes it odder still that the Leins barely take notice of their son, who now stands next to the refrigerator. It's as though Nathan has just briefly come in from the barn for a glass of water; no one says a word. Then, with a nod, Nathan goes outside to see about the sheep. With a storm coming and the tractor awaiting his father's return, there's no time for talk.

Farming is still, as it has always been, the lifeblood of Fayette County-and by extension, of Oelwein. Nathan goes to his parents' place at least three times a week. During spring planting, from late April till mid-May, he's there every night, as he is during the hay cutting and baling season of late summer, the corn harvest in the fall, and when the ewes lamb-out in the winter. Thanks in part to this, the Lein operation is a successful one. The fecundity of the land helps, too. With soil that boasts a corn sustainability rating (CSR) of 75 to 85 out of 100, the land in Fayette County has remained exceptionally rich for the 150 years that people have farmed it. Annual rainfall here averages three feet, and farmers, unlike many places in the United States, needn't bother with irrigation, thereby saving themselves untold thousands of dollars each growing season. Along with a 50 percent rotation of soybeans, the Leins make their bottom line most years off row crops alone, raising hay just to keep the sheep fed. Selling wool, lambs, and the occasional ram or ewe is predominantly a labor of love-or what Nathan's ascetic parents consider an indulgence, and one for which the Leins have won prizes as far away as Maryland and Colorado. Ali together, it's a formula that James and Donna Lein have applied with good success for almost fifty years.

Unfortunately for many farming families around Oelwein, the Lein place is an anomaly. Since the early 1980s, three out of four farms in Fayette County have gone out of business, in a trend that is reflected everywhere in the rural United States. In their stead, many family farms have become add-ons to the ever-increasing holdings of private corporations like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. That, or free-falling land and corn prices have forced smaller places like the Leins' into bankruptcy, making them easy targets for the few families who control the bulk of land in rural counties like Fayette. With their land sold and no jobs, large numbers of people have left the farm belt in the last two and half decades. Oelwein is typical: between 1960 and 1990, the population fell from eight thousand to just over six thousand, a decline of nearly 25 percent. Of those who remain, only one in ten men over the age of twenty-five have at least two years of college education. Unemployment in rural America averages one and a half times that of the urban United States. That is to say that the lifeblood of Fayette County, as in most places, now sustains far fewer lives than it did just twenty years ago.

Out of respect for his parents, Nathan does not use the word "poverty" when describing the circumstances of their lives, though any qualitative analysis would hardly fail to label his parents as poor. Only one side of the Leins' century-old farmhouse has siding, despite the ruthless weather systems that pound the Plains. As a child, Nathan strictly wore clothes from Goodwill. Christmas was for praying, not for gift giving, less for reasons of religious stricture, Nathan says, than for the financial sanctions endemic to a seat-of-your-pants farming existence. Donna, whose parents were new German immigrants from over by Waverly, Iowa, has lived here since the 1960s. In 1968, Donna's first husband was killed in a car accident. She married James, the first-generation auto-mechanic son of a Norwegian day laborer, in 1972, after having kept the farm going by herself for four years. Back then, with crop prices good, the average size of a farm in Fayette County was still 250 acres-that's all it took to make a living. Since then, the 480-acre Lein place has become an artifact of a different time. Many neighbors farm ten times that much land, and planting is done with quarter-million-dollar machinery, guided by GPS. Meanwhile, says Nathan, the equipment his father uses has been largely relegated to museums.

Whether Nathan will take over his parents' place one day is one of the defining questions of his life, and one that, for now, remains sorely unanswered. No one understands the ins and outs of the Lein place like Nathan. Nor is there anyone for whom the meaning of that ground is more profound. Land is something you either crave or you don't; if you're born with a desire for it, you intrinsically understand why people like the Leins break their backs every day, at the ages of sixty-nine and seventy, to keep it. Doing so is less a question of vocation or aesthetics, than it is a question of blood.

The farm is largely why Nathan came back to Oelwein after law school. During the three years he was away, Nathan grew his hair and used his college training in philosophy to try to undo the strict bounds of his religious training. Once loosed into the wider world, Nathan-in an effort to bury the discomfort of his narrow and isolated upbringing-did, by his estimate, every drug known to man, including methamphetamine. Even as he readied himself for a life built around the binding element of law, he worked his way step by step through the foundations of his life, attempting to destroy everything as he went. What he couldn't destroy was the need to return home, or the connection to his family's land. In coming back, Nathan figures, he missed the last best opportunity he would ever have to get out of Iowa.

Nathan saw his home in a wholly new light on his return in 2001. He'd left as a sheltered, ultraconservative Lutheran and come back with a well-honed passion for environmental activism. Locally, that passion was aimed primarily at what he deemed irresponsible water-use laws that both unfairly favored farmers and ranchers and polluted rivers like his beloved Volga, a tributary of the Upper Iowa. Fiscally, Nathan remained conservative, though his social agenda was that of a classic grassroots liberal. In lieu of building more jails-one of Iowa's leading economies in the last ten years-Nathan advocated investment in state-mandated rehabilitation. He stopped attending church himself, but joined church-sponsored social change organizations. He read Aquinas and Kant, bought a VW bus, and organized trash cleanups on public lands. To his parents, Nathan was a hippy. For a while, he lived in Waterloo, an hour south of Oelwein, with the girlfriend he'd met in law school, and of whom his parents disapproved for, according to Nathan, her ample breasts, small stature, and short hair; her Jewish faith; and her roots in a city (Indianapolis), among other things on a long list. There was a falling-out, and Nathan, convinced he'd go the way of his estranged brother who was living in San Francisco, gave up hope of ever taking over the farm. He consoled himself with the fact that his passion for environmental change was deeply out of whack with the prevailing sentiments of the old-guard farmers up around Oelwein, upon whose credos he'd only a few years before staked his claim to the family business. Still, he was lost and confused by his life, drawn by intuition to a place-home-in which he felt intellectually and spiritually confined. Nothing felt familiar. Moved to do something, Nathan did nothing.

That's when Larry Murphy called. Murph, as he's known around town, is a onetime meatpacking worker from a well-known Catholic Democrat family in Dubuque, Iowa. Of Larry's eight surviving siblings-there were initially ten-four are, or have been, involved in state politics. During his senior year in high school, Nathan had worked for Murph as a page during one of Murph's three terms as a state senator. In January 2002, one year after Nathan moved back to Iowa, Murph took office as the mayor of Oelwein, which was in dire straits financially. In addition to problems with the farms, Chicago Great Western had closed the roundhouse, and wages at the Tyson meatpacking plant in town were barely a third of what they'd been as recently as 1992. With a shrinking student body and falling tax revenues, there was talk around Fayette County of closing Oelwein High School, which would have had the disastrous effect of leaving some four hundred students to be bussed, at great expense, to schools as many as fifty miles away.

Into this vacuum had moved the production and distribution of methamphetamine. Not only in Oelwein, but all across Iowa, meth had become one of the leading growth sectors of the economy. No legal industry could, like meth, claim 1,000 percent increases in production and sales in the four years between 1998 and 2002, a period in which corn prices remained flat and beef prices actually fell. Farmers, desperate to avoid foreclosure on their land, sold anhydrous ammonia (a common fertilizer) to meth cooks to make the drug. Others simply quit farming and went into the small-scale meth-manufacturing business. Meatpacking workers, desperate to stay awake long enough to take on double shifts, bought the drug in increasing quantities. As all manner of small, legitimate businesses went bankrupt, meth labs opened in their stead. According to Nathan, farming and agriculture began vying with a drug to be Oelwein's lifeblood.

(Continues...)




Excerpted from METHLAND by Nick Reding Copyright © 2009 by Nick Reding. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents Prologue: Home....................1
Part One: 2005 1. Kant's Lament....................21
2. The Most American Drug....................40
3. The Inland Empire....................58
4. Family....................73
5. The Do Drop Inn....................90
Part Two: 2006 6. Mirror Imaging....................107
7. The Cop Shop....................120
8. Waterloo....................137
9. The Inland Empire, Part Two....................150
10. Las Flores....................168
Part Three: 2007 11. Algona....................185
12. El Paso....................194
13. Disconnected States....................208
14. Kant's Redemption....................217
15. Independence....................231
Epilogue: Home Again....................240
Acknowledgments....................251
A Note on Sources....................255
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 53 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 53 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fails to Deliver

    Somewhere there is a good story waiting to be told about OELWEIN, Iowa and its meth problems, but it is not contained in Nick Reding's tall tale entitled Methland. When an author cannot get simple details correct, details that could be ascertained by a 5 minute perusal of an Iowa roadmap, it is hard to put much faith that the rest of the book is not equally flawed.

    Mr. Reding might want to know that the University of Northern Iowa is not in Cedar Rapids, as he states on page 74. His New York and St. Louis readers will not care about such a minor slip up, but they should. When Reding cannot get the little things correct, such as the distances between towns or the simple fact that Oelwein isn't on the Mississippi River (as Reding implies on the first page), then why should we believe he can recall a drunken conversation he may have had 3 or 4 years ago? It just doesn't make sense.

    Methland is less a book about "the death and life of an American town" as it is an attempt to indict corporations such as Tyson or Cargill. I found it fascinating that more than once he talks about workers being unable to obtain worker's compensation insurance from their employers, but provides no documentation for this assertion. No names, no examples, no dates, just a casual comment.

    It is difficult to quarrel with Reding's impressions of people and events, because his impressions are his own. However, in the opinion of many people who have actually lived in the area for years as opposed to visiting for a few weeks (as did Reding), his impressions are misguided and I think in some cases downright false. It must be convenient for him that he made no recordings or took no notes. In this way he is unaccountable for his impressions.

    The biggest problem with this book is it is simply inaccurate. It is filled with mistakes, and is sloppily written and even more sloppily edited. It is difficult to imagine such a book could even be published when it contains so many factual errors.

    Unfortunately Reding could not decide what book to write. He tried to tell about the plight of a small town battling drug abuse. He tried to bring attention to the struggles of illegals and their substandard working conditions. He wanted to talk about the struggles of the family farm and the rise of the evil corporations who have no compassion for humanity. Sadly, he fails to really cover any of these topics in rich enough detail to keep the reader informed or interested. Somewhere in here is the beginning of a good Novel but as a work of nonfiction, Methland fails to make the grade.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2009

    Very Disappointed

    As a lifelong resident of Iowa and a witness to the meth epidemic that Mr. Reding discusses in his book, I have to honestly say that I expected much more. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a timely and relevant topic, especially in the Midwest. Nor is there any doubt that it is a prevalent problem, one that stretches across social and economic boundaries.

    However, there were far too many assumptions made in this book as were there very obvious mistakes. As a reader, I found it very difficult to get over the obvious and blatant errors that the author made. Examples: on page 2 of the book he talks about passing through Cedar Rapids and the "Purina plant, which bathes everything for miles around in the sweet smell of breakfast cereal." For one, there is no Purina plant in Cedar Rapids or even in the near vicinity. Second, the plant he is referring to is Quaker Oats and it is so obviously marked that if Mr. Reding indeed make several trips to Oelwein as he states, this should have been a no-brainer. On page 74, he states that Clay and Charlie graduated together from "the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Rapids." There are only 3 public universities in the state of Iowa, it is shameful that Mr. Reding couldn't even get the correct city...it's Cedar Falls. Finally, he states that Iowa's largest city is Iowa City. Really? Because a simple look at a map of Iowa will indeed show that it is actually Des Moines. A simple fact check could have caught all of these mistakes. There truly is no excuse on the part of Mr. Reding.

    I have to honestly say that I could not recommend this book to anyone. I simply cannot. And quite frankly, as an Iowan, I am offended that an author who had every chance to bring this topic to light completely blew it with his big-city arrogance and lack of journalistic skills.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2012

    An informative book

    The book informs readers about the nature, disadvantages, consequences, etc. of manufacturing and using methamphetamines. It discusses economic factors that may have, rightly or wrongly, contributed to an at least temporary meth endemic in a small town. The book describes how big companies (first railroads, then integrated food producers)contributed to the the downward economic spiral in the town. It also mentions how big food companies knowingly contribute to the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. and how they create distress for the remaining family farms. In the long run, these economic issues may be more important to the country than a methamphetamine problem.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Has Nick Reding ever BEEN to Iowa?

    I put this book down before I was halfway through it. It's depressing not because of the subject matter but because the portrayal of Iowa and Iowans is so bland and stereotypical. Additionally, Mr. Reding would greatly benefit from the services of an editor who might actually take the time to consult a map. As a two-time graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, in CEDAR FALLS, I am appalled that a text this sloppily put together is getting such praise from the national media.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2009

    it isnt accurate

    there is sooo much wrong in this book. yes i bought it since i live in oelwein only for a memory later in life. He talks about resturants he was NEVER in. says places are where they are not, talks about the coffee shop like it was a main place in town. NO ONE went there that is why it is closed and didnt last maybe a year. Also he talks so much about Nathan Lein and his love life i think that was just filler for pages. the history was interesting though, i learned some stuff hopefully that was true, who knows with him writting it. I know so much is wrong about oelwein that it makes me wonder if the stuff outside of oelwein is completly true.It was so BORING i never read a book so slow. I'm quite a reader and this was hard too read.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2011

    Too Much Truth For Some to Bear, Connections Too Stark to Ignore

    Perhaps Mr. Reding's book could have profited from a rigorous details-check of certain inaccuracies regarding geography and which agra-business on a stretch of road aroused the author's nose, but the complaints here amount to the carping of those made either uncomfortable by the portrait given, or simply those unable to comprehend the connections made between the gutting of rural economies, the outcomes of Agra-business & Big Pharma's influence on national policies, and the international drug trade as it impacts the manufacture and use of methamphetimine.

    As one who lives fairly close to the county in Missouri cited as having the "Meth Capitol" in the Mid-West(and has property in a rural area vandalized by those under the sway of 'crank') this reads all too sadly true. Mr. Reding has done his homework, and 'Methland' gives you a far, far greater understanding of how events in Mexico, India, South Korea, American immigration policies, corporate hiring of hard-working illegal immigrants,& the lobbying efforts of those representing businesses and corporations created what we now have: what is, IMO, the most corrosive and damaging aspect of domestic drug abuse and pathology in the USA. Read this book...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2010

    Bewildered

    This initially sounded like a very interesting book, but the whole way through, I found myself wondering what it was really about. There were a lot of stories told and facts given, but they never came together to make a larger point or paint the big picture. After finishing the book, I still have no idea what Nick Reding wanted his readers to get out of this book. Overall, a waste of time, and I wish I would have read something else. Like Dr. Seuss.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    Methland

    Methland was a fast read and I read it in one sitting. The author looks at the drug abuse in total and also at the micro level with specific details on how it affects the human being, the family, the community, the workplace, and the country in general.
    I recommend this for government workers, teachers, law enforcement officers, and citizens that want to improve their communities.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2014

    This is such a good book, my childhood having been effected Meth

    This is such a good book, my childhood having been effected Meth I found this book informative and informational. I couldn't stop reading it till I finished it.

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  • Posted July 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Left me wanting more

    This book went in deep and told the story of meth. I read it last year and I've yet to come across a book as good.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    great read

    had to read it for a class. i enjoyed it. very informational with some awesome detailed stories as well. Enjoy!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Now I get it

    After reading the Crank series by Ellen Hopkins, I became fascinated by meth because it is a drug that, until reading this book, I knew almost nothing about. I had heard of it, I watched a couple of documentaries, but there was still information missing that my brain was looking for. Methland provided the answers to all of my questions and made connections to other things I am reading about Big Ag.

    The first half of the book is extremely interesting. I could not put it down. The second half is good, but I found some of the writing to be choppy and repetitive, making it difficult to understand at times. Overall, however, I think this is a very worthwhile read.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 24, 2010

    If you want to see

    I'm from the next county over where most of this book is placed. This is the tale of my home, what has become of it. Its not pleasant but its the truth. If you want to understand what happens out here in the boondocks then give this one a read, you won't want to put it down (your boss might want you to thou).

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2010

    Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

    This was one of the most interesting nonfiction books I have ever read. It was about the stranglehold that the narcotic methamphetamine has on America, especially in small towns. What made it so interesting was that the author, Nick Reding, actually went to these places across America, particularly in Iowa, and lived with the people that were most affected by this drug problem. Because of this, he was able to give a first-hand account of the devastation that the drug has caused. With anecdotes scrambled in with facts and figures, Nick Reding does an excellent job of keeping the reader's interest. I would recommend this book to anyone brave enough to bear the horror stories of meth's effects on America.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2009

    Interesting Reading

    I learned about interesting facts concerning the meth problem in the Iowa.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted June 14, 2009

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    Posted July 28, 2011

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    Posted July 30, 2011

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    Posted October 19, 2011

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    Posted November 24, 2010

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