This account of the meth epidemic in rural America is well-written and provocative. The author does not simply focus on meth and its ravages. He places the epidemic in the larger context of globalization, immigration policy, the power of the drug lobby, and changes in American agriculture that have decimated family farms and rural communities. For anyone who grew up in the midwest and who has seen the gradual decline of small towns and the increase in rural poverty, this will be a compelling read. For students of politics and economic history, the book is a must-read because of the breadth of the analysis and the prediction that what is true in Olwein, Iowa today may be true of Scarsdale, NY in a matter of years.
Nick Reding has a nice literary style, which I appreciate in a non-fiction book as it makes for less dry reading. That's one of the redeeming qualities of this book, which was interesting but frankly didn't really bring that much insight to the table. Okay, meth is bad, we all know that. And drug addiction is horrible, drug cartels are evil and dangerous, and poverty tends to breed despair and thus drug use. These are all well-known facts and true of every addictive drug and every drug "epidemic." But color me skeptical when I'm told that this generation's drug is yet another incarnation of the WORST DRUG EVER IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND!
Reding goes into the history of meth and traces the rise of meth as a small town drug that is symbolic of the woes of Middle America by tying it to one town in particular: Oelwein, Iowa. He takes a sample of individual real-life characters -- the optimistic but beleaguered mayor, the pragmatic and cynical prosecutor, the alcoholic doctor, and of course, various dealers and addicts -- to personalize the effects of meth on this town. The stories are interesting but nothing we haven't heard before. Likewise, the rise of the Mexican Mafia is just a reprise of the Colombian cocaine cartels in the 80s. Once again, ham-handed legislation tainted by lobbyist influence managed only to strengthen the hold that organized crime has on the trade.
The connection to globalization and poverty is there, but I think it's a weaker part of Reding's narrative, particularly when he veers into agribusiness consolidation. This represents a whole host of problems afflicting the American heartland, and meth is just one piece of it, more a side effect than a root cause.
I found the book interesting and Reding's storytelling quite adequate, but it seemed like there was quite a bit of filler to pad it out to a full-length book. The Oelwein sections themselves were only part of the book.
This isn't a bad book or even a particularly flawed one, and certainly it increases understanding of the specifics of the drug methamphetamine. But I didn't find it to be ground-breaking, nor wholly convincing in its thesis that meth is the worst!drug!ever! and that the loss of American farming and blue collar jobs is responsible for the problem.
Business Physicist and Astronomer
I enjoyed this book and I learned a lot from it. good read.
My ONLY complaint is that the author seems to attribute all "meth" use to the loss of well paying jobs and sadly that's not the case. There are issues of character that enter into the pattern of drug abuse. I'm sorry, but there are.
Not everyone who falls into the drug trap goes by way of poverty and despair. Many (most?) have mental (physical) and character issues. The choice to USE a drug precedes addiction.
So, yes, great book but a little bit too much blame placed on bad corporations.
Holy moly Mama !
How "ordinary" everything seemed to be. I have my head in the sand !
Haven't listened to any but need to check him out.
Get your head out of the sand.
It was great !!!!!!!!1
My hats off to Nick Reding. Very well researched book. It's about time somebody wrote the truth about a drug that has took the USA like a plague! Any more its not who's on this horrible drug,but who is'nt.Meth is destroying lives and family's daily! Sure wish their were more real people like Nick out their! Great job, keep up the good work,hope to see more of your writings in the future. This novel really hit's HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!
Solid reporting, good storytelling, wide lens to this narrative. It's really a contemporary history of Middle American working class: blue collar without a reason to get dressed for work. Excellent on the larger forces in play, why the American myth is psychological rather than sociological, meaning, whatever happens, we see only personal responsibility.
This book beautifully weaves together a story of a place, it's people, global connections and historical analyses. Reding's tactile metaphors and clever turn of phrase make you smile, despite the often gloomy content. Big pharma, big agriculture and small town love in a narrative that all social scientists can learn from and all storytellers can value as a way to historicise their content. Smitten
This story could have used more shock stories about how meth is destroying communities but it only really focuses on two or three people. Does not seem to illustrate the real big problem in the land, just the problem with a few kooky meth heads in a scraggly town. Not real exciting.
Likes: Cozy mysteries (cats a plus), personal memoirs,not too dark fantasy, books about the brain. Dislikes: Torture, animal cruelty.
I was expecting a portrait of an American town impacted by meth, mostly communicated with portraits of individual users. And there is some of this. But there is a lot more of looking at meth through a bigger lens, with discussions of economics and politics etc. While certainly educational, that wasn't my favorite part. In all fairness the book I thought it was going to be would have been a downer since I have learned why exactly meth is such a hard drug to come clean from and our recovering user portraits support this. There are also a lot of portraits of non-users, in law enforcement, politics and other roles within small town America. I think there was more of that than I wanted. I think the author enjoys going off on tangents about individual people. There was one point in the book where this got so obvious that I took a break from listening for a long time. The author was telling the life story of a guy who was brought as a guest to a barbecue of a guy who works as a doctor in the town. The guest was from Central America I think it was and the author was going on about the political environment from which this guy came. It was so off the topic of small town meth I lost interest. I think the editor should have flagged that. Overall it was educational, interesting and well performed, but good rather than great.
I enjoy history, biographys, and nerdy/ dorky things.
Yes, but only to be read on a larger scale than just meth.
Sorta falls off without much closure.
50% of the book was very good. The other 50% was about big industry ruining middle America, and not even about meth. It's worth listening to but, I would not rush to listen to it.
If you are looking for an in depth study of meth use in America, this is not for you. However this is a very good study about the decline of middle class Americans in the Mid-west.