Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town

by Nick Reding


View All Available Formats & Editions


A New York Times Bestseller

Winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize

Winner of the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism

Named a best book of the year by:

the Los Angeles Times

the San Francisco Chronicle

the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch

the Chicago Tribune

the Seattle Times

"A stunning look at a problem that has dire consequences for our country.”-New York Post

The dramatic story of Methamphetamine as it comes to the American Heartland-a timely, moving, account of one community's attempt to confront the epidemic and see their way to a brighter future.

The bestselling book that launched meth back into the nation's consciousness. Based on Reding's four years of reporting in the agricultural town of Oelwein, Iowa, and tracing the connections to the global forces that set the stage for the meth epidemic, Methland offers a vital perspective on a contemporary tragedy. It is a portrait of a community under siege, of the lives that meth has devastated, and of the heroes who continue to fight the war.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781596916500
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 06/09/2009
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.44(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.00(d)

About 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, Missouri, he decided to move back to his home town in the course of reporting this book.

Read an Excerpt


The Death and Life of an American Small Town

By Nick Reding
Copyright © 2009

Nick Reding
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59691-650-0


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.


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.

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
A Note on Sources....................255

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Methland 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 87 reviews.
JamesHooper More than 1 year ago
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.
MC93 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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'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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
goodinthestacks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Methland" by Nick Reding is not a book just about the meth epidemic that took over small towns and large cities across America. It is a book about how big business and the government were complicit with foreign drug cartels in making this drug synonymous with rural American life. This book is about rural American life.
jenn_stringer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic account of how meth has decimated large parts of the American population. Reding does a great job of tying together the story of the economic, political, and cultural pressures that have made meth such a devastating drug.
RDHawk6886 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Engrossing and personal look at how meth addiction affects the small town Midwest.
allthesedarnbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Within the last ten years or so, I've seen more articles about meth labs being busted in the local paper. At one point, the next county over from mine was being the "meth capital of New York State". I know that in some of the more rural parts of my own county meth is an increasing problem. In my own small city of less than 50,000, we even had the dubious achievement of the first fatal meth lab fire in NYS. Despite all of that, I've never actually met a meth addict.In Reding's Methland, he travels to Oelwein, Iowa, a small town struggling with methamphetamine production and use. Reding is at his best when profiling the people he meets there, both in law enforcement and city government and the meth users themselves. He has a gift for describing people in a realistic way. He also draws a great portrait of a small town in despair. His ideas tying the meth epidemic into the rise of big pharmaceuticals and agribusiness as well as US immigration policy are interesting but seem to belong in a different book entirely. Maybe it's that I don't have enough of an education in economics myself, but IMO Reding lacked the facts and research (or perhaps just the ability to communicate economic and political ideas) to back up his claims. At least he didn't express them in a way that satisfied even this casual reader, unschooled in economics and usually the type of girl who takes an excuse to blame big corporations for social ills. Overall, this is a worthwhile, sad, and gritty read; I would have enjoyed more of the stories of the people of Oelwein and the other towns Reding visited and less of the weakly presented mishmash of socioeconomic analysis.
TrishNYC on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As more and more Americans move away from small towns to urban areas, many carry with them an idealized version of the places they left behind. They imagine idyllic scenes of families at work and play, engaging in simple pursuits, farming the land, attending places of worship and living low key lives. But many of these towns are becoming unrecognizable as communities are swept up in the consumption of a dangerous drug that leaves its users physically and mentally damaged, financially depressed and rips families apart. Methland is Nick Reding's attempt to understand Meth's spread as it weaves a path of destruction through small town America and what this means for society at large. One of the reasons why Meth has been able to penetrate and destroy communities in a somewhat unique manner, is the fact that its component elements can be acquired very easily in common drug store purchases. Ephedrine and Pseudo ephedrine are both ingredients of over the counter cold medicines and can be acquired without a prescription. So in addition to the drug cartels that produce Meth, everyday people are able to produce Meth in their kitchens with just a few ingredients and a basic knowledge of chemistry. Meth production at home has led to many house fires and explosions, claiming the lives of innocent victims in addition to poisoning non using bystanders( e.g children).Its is interesting to see Meth's current status as an illicit drug, as it was once a legally prescribed drug for weight loss, depression and all manner of ailments.Tests on mice show that the body starts to form antibodies that vaccinates itself against the drug thus making attainment of a high more and more difficult with each use. This means that addicts seek larger and larger quantities of the drug to get a high thus making them even more desperate and resorting to extreme means, violence included, to get that high. The author draws some very interesting conclusions about the role of immigration, monopolies in the agricultural sector and even Washington lobby groups to Meth's inception and spread. This is a very interesting and well researched book. As I read, I was surprised by how insidious the Meth problem has become as I too had bought the myth of the idyllic small town, believing that drugs were more of a big city problem. It is a sad and complex portrait of what happens when certain factors, high unemployment, poverty and disconnection from certain basic needs occurs. I found the book to be readable if at times bogged down by too many facts and details.
JBreedlove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The history and on going saga of Olewein, Iowa and its efforts to rid itself of the methamphetamine drug epidemic and to re-invent itself economically. It also tells of the consolidation of America under a few large insurance, agriculture, and insurance corporate entities. Our system has run so long the variables at the edges are no longer there. An enlightening book about what's been going on in the last 31 years.
aaf7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is an absorbing analysis of a town in the midwest (Oelwein, Iowa)'s trajectory as it is swept into the mess of meth. The author does weaves this narrative with statistics and anecdotes about the sociological, political and global impact of meth as the "new" illegal drug for the U.S. to fight.He pulls in analysis from the pentagon, regional journalists, the DEA and university professors to answer the questions: What is the history of meth's distribution in the U.S.? How effective is the justice system and law enforcement in preventing it's spread and prevent it from entering this country? How does it affect our foreign policy with Mexico and other countries that supply the raw materials for its manufacture? What role has the drug companies played in its spread? Has small town America been devastated by it irrevocably or can they recover?I found this book an enjoyable read despite the shocking anecdotes. He has managed to balance these with positive snippets of the lives of the people affected by meth. The book is in chronological order, with chapters devoted to analysis of the different topics I mentioned above.
quilted_kat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An exploration of the American methamphetamine epidemic through first-hand accounts of one small-town. Partly a story of the personal horrors experienced by users of the drug. Partly an exploration of the economic decline that precipitates the erosion of a community. There is not any one simple explanation or solution to the meth problem. Good and evil are not clear-cut. When factory jobs that used to pay workers eighteen dollars an hour are bought out, dissolving the unions and reducing wages to around five dollars an hour, it¿s no surprise that people look for other options. In today¿s economic climate there are often no safe options left.
kqueue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Methland is a fascinating and somewhat frightening look at the rise of methamphetamine addiction in the United States. It focuses on the small town of Oelwein, Iowa as a microcosm of the meth problem which is complex and many layered. There are so many things that allowed meth to become the epidemic that it is: the loss of family farms and small business to big agriculture; the power of the pharmaceutical lobby; the Mexican drug trafficking organizations; and illegal immigration and migrant workers. Author Nick Reding takes this complex and seemingly disparate topics and winds them into a cohesive narrative that includes anecdotes of real people ¿ doctors, addicts, dealers, prosecutors, DEA agents ¿ on the front lines of this battle and makes it real. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers, but there are glimmers of hope. I highly recommend this book for anyone who lives in small town.
Grabbag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely horrifying non-fiction book about the terrifying effects of methamphetamine in middle America. Effects caused by the poor economy that ripped through small towns across the country, starting in the early 1990s. The personal accounts are terrifying, disgusting, and saddening. Reding chose to release this at the right time. After people read Nic Sheff's [Tweak], hopefully they'll pick this one up.
itbgc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Methland is a true story which is well worth reading. Not only is it informative, but it is also inspirational and enjoyable. The author (Nick Reding) painted a clear picture of the effects of meth addiction on individual users, their families, the local community, the state, and the country. He shares the information he gleaned from spending countless hours listening to and observing people on all sides of the meth issue--drug addicts and their family members, drug manufacturers and dealers, local and federal law-enforcement officers and legislators, and the town¿s doctor, prosecuting attorney, and mayor.Reding answers questions like, how does a meth addiction compare with other addictions? Why would someone start using meth? Why would someone start manufacturing and trafficking meth, and how do they do this? How does meth affect families, especially the children? How have Big Agriculture and Big Pharmaceuticals changed life in the Midwest and contributed to drug abuse? How do drug dealers and manufacturers adjust to new laws? Can stricter laws and enforcement eradicate the meth epidemic in the US? What I liked best about this book are the details of exactly how the tiny, practically comatose town of Oelwein, Iowa, courageously and successfully fought to regain life in their community under the leadership of an energetic, optimistic mayor, Larry Murphy. I can only imagine the ¿Community Burial Ceremony of Gloom and Doom¿ he organized to celebrate the victories won and to inspire more in the future. This book obviously needs a lot of editing, but I only read the advance copy.
MsGemini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Methland was a book I read over a period of time. The story was well done but intense and I was only wanting to read small sections at a time. I have read several other books on addiction but they mostly focused on an individual, their family and the way drugs changed their lives. This book went a step further and looked at an entire town and the way Meth became such a part of this community.I am glad I stuck with this one and I would recommend this one to those interested in the subject of addiction.
markon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Meth as metaphor?I anticipated reading Methland with some trepidation, since I graduated from high school in Oelwein, Iowa, and my mother worked as a nurse in Fayette & Black Hawk counties for over 20 years. But it was getting good reviews, and I was curious.What impressed me about this book was the layering of complex issues in readable language. The use of specific people and places to illustrate the spread and effects of meth allows a general reader to understand the sociology of meth on a visceral level that a more academic book wouldn¿t. It includes information on the development of methamphetamine as a drug and its chemistry and physiological effects, as well as sociological issues surrounding its regulation (or lack thereof), and the economic and political framework that allow its use, abuse, and distribution. However, sources of this information aren¿t included and, coupled with two factual errors about Iowa and Oelwein that shouldn¿t have been missed, this made me wonder how accurate the information was.Though the book is both readable and interesting, I have to say that I was disappointed overall. I kept asking myself, ¿What¿s the point?¿ If Reding simply intends to lament the struggles of small town America coping with methamphetamine, he succeeds. But I expected more. And buried in the prose are hints of a thesis that isn¿t systematically addressed in the book, let alone documented. From the preface on page 16 : "The rise of the meth epidemic was built largely on economic policies, political decisions, and the recent development of American cultural history. Meth's basic components lie equally in the action of government lobbyists, long-term trends in the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries, and the effects of globalization and free trade. "Page 58 : ". . . I was beginning to see meth in America as a function not just of farming and food industry trends in the 1980s and '90s but also of changes in the narcotics and pharmaceuticals industries in the same period. . . And that meth, if it is a metaphor for anything, is a metaphor for the cataclysmic fault lines formed by globalization."p. 109: "What continued to take shape for me was the portrait of a town that stood as a metaphor for all of rural America and its problems. That's to say that the evolution of the meth epidemic had occurred in lockstep with the three separate economic trends that had contributed to the dissolution of small-town United States. By looking closely at the events of 2006, one can see the parallel trajectories of meth and small-town economics - the one rising, the other falling - dating back to the days of the Amezcuas. And the things that spurred this simultaneous rise and fall: the development of Big Pharmaceuticals, Big Agriculture, and the modern Mexican drug-trafficking business."Unfortunately, these statements are supported only anecdotally and references aren¿t documented. I realize this is a popular book and not an academic one, but I¿m not going to be convinced by statements like this that aren¿t back up. I¿d be interested in reading a reasoned argument, but this isn¿t it.
writergal85 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Methland provides a very thorough investigation of the methamphetamine infiltration on a small Iowa town. It is less about the product and more about the people. Methland would have been much more powerful with stronger and more detailed physical descriptions. I enjoy reads like Germs by Judith Miller, et al. and Biohazard by Ken Alibek. When I read medical or science-related non-fiction; I want to be haunted by it. I want to have nightmares. Methland just did not go there for me; it did not delve deep enough into the depravity. The sub-title of the book is ¿The Death and Life of An American Small Town.¿ maybe I just do not believe in small-town America. Or more likely for this city woman, Methland failed to provide me with an insider¿s view on small town America. A skillful writer can place any reader anywhere. While author Nick Reding gets very involved in the town and its residents, parts of Methland read like a textbook or a long Op-Ed piece. I just cannot completely care enough about meth. To make Methland more effective for me, I needed a bolder before and more definitive after. Having one's life destroyed so completely by meth or another drug is a choice and I don't feel sorry for these people. We spend so much time and money and other resources busting meth cooks and dealers etc., yet other sources sprout up elsewhere. Where will it end? Am I callous? Maybe. Am I an urban, latte-sipping liberal intellectual with a master¿s degree far detached from the working poor of the Midwest agriculture states? Absolutely. I understand the portrait of a small town and its destruction that Reding ventured to paint in Methland. There just is not a black and white. It is very gray. And with meth, the drug, one cannot expect it to be that way.
CarolynSchroeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a great account of the meth industries in the rural parts of the United States. Also, the interplay and education regarding the "big picture" (e.g., the pharmaceutical companies, the various governments and other countries importing component parts of various compositions of meth) is absolutely fascinating, scary and all too real. Mr. Reding shows a huge amount of empathy for all the players in the chain of events (dealers, users, suppliers), in fact, at times too much. He often suggests that addicts are merely a product of a rough life, low wages, few jobs, the need to work harder and without those events, the epidemic would not be what it is. I'm not so sure, it's a cheap, highly addictive drug that is relatively easy (albeit dangerous) to make. In any event, it's a great book, very readable and thought-provoking. My only real complaint is there is too much of the author's life, background, fears and desires. That got off track of an otherwise fairly scholarly approach to the problem. I live and prosecute in Illinois and while the epidemic is not as bad in the Chicago collar counties (although we do indeed see it), the rural areas of the state are absolutely beleagured. I now understand it all a bit better ... and fear it more as well. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the subject matter.
mikewick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My parents live in rural Northeast Indiana, and from them I hear stories of how meth makes its presence known: how they see discarded two liter pop bottles of quick-fix batches littering the roadside; find propane tanks from larger batches while clearing brush around a lake; catch a whiff of the tell-tale ether stench while driving the country roads. Luckily, the human detritus of meth isn't a story they personally know: of families whose bonds are neglected and negated by addiction; jobs and lives lost; towns and counties stressed to the breaking point by a society in decline.Nick Reding's "methland" makes that human element so frighteningly real; in a town quickly losing quality jobs, dependent on the increasingly-consolidated industries that remain, where methamphetamine production fills the economic and emotional gaps that remain. Reding brings together a host of elements in the meth trade, from the tweakers who've lost body parts to batches gone bad to the personalities and organizations who revolutionized meth sales. Paralleling this are the people who've decided to make a stand, such as the small-town mayor who takes a gamble to bring small business back to a shell of a town and the assistant district attorney who's racking up small-time convictions.There are voyeuristic-worthy details that will appeal the addiction memoir crowd like the story the town-wide famous addict Roland Jarvis, but it's the moments when Reding's describing the larger elements controlling the playing field that deserve the most attention. This is where the book goes beyond describing the effects and goes after the causes, rooting out elements of government and big business who have ignored their complicity in an epidemic. Highly recommended reading for both those addicted to addiction memoirs and readers interested in social issues.
eejjennings on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent explanation of the meth epidemic in small town Iowa in the 1990s and 2000s.
justablondemoment on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For somebody that needs a research book this would be great. For me it wasn't what I was after. Although I ended up putting it aside, it was interesting for a 'factual' book, especially since I am from the midwest and it did kept me going for awhile. Excellent job of this author for all his compilation of facts and research though.
HHS-Staff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Mr. Overeem (Language Arts)An absorbing analysis of the development of methamphetamine from a "wonder drug" that was vaunted as being able to cure depression and increase production (scary) to the scourge of Small Town, USA. Anyone interested in the side effects of corporate consolidation, globalization, illegal immigration, and "The War on Drugs" must read this. The events Reding describes are very close to home.
Schmerguls on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an account of the suthor's research into the evil ofmethamphetamine. He spent a lot of time in Oelwein, Iowa, and tells some shocking stories of people enslaved by the drug. The book is not as well organized as it should be, and jumps aound a lot in time and place. It is not fun to read about such a dangerous drug, and people caught in its insidious grasp.