There is something about Mark Boyett’s voice that made him the narrator of choice for two nonfiction audiobooks published in close succession: The Good Soldiers by David Finkel and Methland by Nick Reding. The common factors of these books are authors who worked at the sites of their stories for protracted periods of time and developed personal relationships with the people caught in the terrible circumstances their stories depict, and the important issues for America the books represent. The Good Soldiers is a deeply moving, tragic, and heroic story of American soldiers fighting in Iraq. Methland is an American tragedy of engulfing, systemic, and tragic dimensions. Set in Oelwein, Iowa, Methland documents the destructive effects of methamphetamine on this small town, and, by extension, all of rural America and the rest of the country.
Boyett is an actor relatively new to audiobooks. His talents and skills are exceptional, and his voice has unique and impressive signature qualities. Boyett’s narrative voice ranges from a baritone of dramatic tonal solidity to the mid-to-high registries where he is expansive in more nuanced ways. Boyett has exceptional timing. And what is perhaps his strongest talent is the way he creates and shapes the book’s timing with his frequent and fluent shifts in intonation, stress, phrasings, emphases, and pitch all the vocal gifts in the narrator’s quiver. In short, Boyett’s voice is actively expressive in quite an impressive way, and what is behind the voice is the narrator’s highly disciplined and methodical approach. Boyett does what the great narrators do: he greatly enhances and enriches the book’s contents.
Methland is a book of extreme contrasts. In its largest sense it is investigative journalism, objective reportage of the history and growth and destructive effects of methamphetamine. It is upfront and personal in its depictions of the people involved in the drama, and in many places it is down-home and personal. For instance, we become closely acquainted with the life stories of two upstanding and impressive young men central to the story: Nathan Lein, assistant prosecutor for Fayette County, and Clay Hallberg, the town’s doctor.
And then there is Roland Jarvis. “On a cold winter night in 2001, Roland Jarvis looked out the window of his mother’s house and saw that the Oelwein police had hung live human heads in the trees of the yard… Then the heads, satisfied that Jarvis was in fact cooking meth in the basement, conveyed the message to a black helicopter hovering over the house.” This hallucination has horrific, dreadful consequences, and Reding’s depictions of Jarvis living with these consequences are shocking, startling, and moving. The something about Boyett’s voice is his meticulously timed and constructed narration, his expressive fluency, and his ability to shift with ease within the existential extremes of normality and abnormality in nonfiction. David Chasey
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, long lasting, 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 20 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.
©2009 Nick Reding; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"Mark Boyett’s narration is terrific. He deftly conveys the town’s efforts to deal with the problem and defines various key residents. Particularly strong are his portraits of town doctor Clay Hallburg, who personally observes the growth of the drug and the decline of the town, and prosecutor Nathan Lein, whose caseload is almost entirely meth based." (AudioFile)
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
Feels lazy at times and over-reaching. It tries too hard. Meth is bad. Meth is here to stay, but books have a responsibility to tell stories in engaging ways-- at least a book of this type.
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.
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.
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