Lately I have this crazy way of picking out books to review: If it looks interesting, I pick it up. I'm a bit of a crime buff and I usually read nonfiction when reading adult books. That brings me to today's review, for Methland by Nick Reding.
For four years, Reding tracked the effects of meth in Oelwein, Iowa, which has been referred to as the meth capital of the world. Of course, about 70 other towns have this distinction, too, but this is Oelwein's story. Many of Oelwein's residents work in agriculture, and came to meth because it gave them the stamina to last through multiple shifts in agriculture factories, shifts they needed to stay afloat financially. Meth has two properties that make it a problem that can swallow a small, economically disadvantaged town: It's easy to make and one of the most addictive substances on the planet. Reding doesn't spare a lot of details about meth's effects on the body and what can happen when meth manufacturing goes terribly wrong. (Given that meth manufacturers make meth from cold pills and hazardous chemicals with highly flammable residue, this occurrence is not uncommon.) Reding's protagonist is Nathan Lein, a county prosecutor who deals with the fallout from local -- which becomes national and international -- drug use and trafficking.
Even though I have never lived in a small town or known anyone affected by meth, I felt the desperation Reding writes about in terms of small-town economies and how the battle against meth is constantly uphill. Oelwein was home to one of the country's first meth empires, built by a woman who couldn't kick meth even after years in federal prison. What makes this book a success is Reding's appeal to the heart rather than to the mind. He shows readers how laws meant to stop the production of meth have done practically nothing. He makes us feel the strain on Oelwein's population and knows that there's no one singular cause for its meth problem. In parts I wanted more, but I also realize that it's hard to fit four years' worth of research into one 275-page book.
Methlandbook.com || NY Times review || Methland page at Bloomsbury USA
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