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Methland The Death and Life of an American Small Town



Pub. Date:
Bloomsbury USA
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Customer Reviews

Quick and Important Read  March 28, 2011

This is one of my favorite textbooks, everyone has heard of the meth epidemic; it's scary effects on human life and the social fabric have been in the papers and on the news nationwide for what seems like a very long time. As meth gained a high public profile, many people have looked at the isolated elements of what we now call the drug wars. What we haven't had is any insight into how meth came to occupy a central place in so many lives and so many towns.

Methland The Death and Life of an American Small Town: 5 out of 5 stars based on 1 user reviews.


Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town is a book by Nick Reding which documents the drug culture of Oelwein, Iowa and how it ties into larger issues of rural flight and small town economic decline placed in the historic context of the drug trade.

The bestselling textbook 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. 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 textbook. Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the small towns of the American heartland.

In Methland, journalist Nick Reding tells the story of Oelwein, Iowa (pop. 6,159), which, like thousands of other rural communities 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. Now an incredibly cheap, long-lasting, and highly addictive drug has rolled into town. Through four years of reporting, Reding brings us into the heart of rural America through a cast of intimately drawn characters. Trafficker Lori Arnold is the queen of Midwest crank. Roland Jarvis is a former meatpacking worker who blew up his mother's house while cooking meth. Oelwein's doctor, Clay Hallberg, feels his own life falling apart as he attempts to put that of his town back together.

Nathan Lein, the son of farmers, is now the county prosecutor, struggling with what Oelwein has become. Methland is a portrait not just of a town, but of small-town America on the brink. Centered on one community battling for a brighter future, it reveals the connections between the real-life people touched by the drug epidemic and the global forces behind it. Methland provides a vital perspective on a contemporary tragedy, ultimately offering the very thing that meth once took from Oelwein: hope. 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 "Think globally, suffer locally. This could be the moral of Methland, Nick Redings unnerving investigative account of . . . Oelwein, Iowa, a railroad and meatpacking town of several thousand whipped by a methamphetamine-laced panic whose origins lie outside the place itself . . . Reding introduces a cast of local characters whose trust it must have been a feat to gain, so wobbly and troubled are their lives.

Nathan Lein, the crusading county prosecutor, is the 28-year-old son of pious farmers who's come back to Oelwein to help clean up the meth mess after obtaining degrees in philosophy, law and environmental science . . . Manning another fortress against the siege is Dr. Clay Hallberg, Oelwein's leading physician . . . In the tradition of James Agee's writings on Depression-era sharecroppers, Reding displays the faces of the damned in broken-capillary close-ups . . . Too many scenes of sulfurous agony might chase away the most calloused, ambitious reader, so Reding recounts these nightmares sparingly, surrounding them with stretches of patient journalism tracing the convergence of social vectors that made the meth plague nearly inevitable and its eradication well-nigh impossible.

Author Biography

Nick Reding is the author of the Last Cowboys at the End of the World. His writing has appeared in Outside, Food & Wine, Fast Company, and Harper's. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with his wife and son.

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