NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Friday, September 11, 2009


by Nick Reding

"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 America's heartland. In Methland, journalist Nick Reding introduces us to one such small town: Oelwein, Iowa, population 6,126. Like thousands of other rural communities across the country, Oelwein has been left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy, and an out-migration of people. Now in incredibly cheap, long-lasting, and highly effective drug has taken its hold." (From the jacket flap of the Bloomsbury edition.)

I thought the most captivating part of Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town was that it didn't just talk about the meth problem as a single issue. The stories of the addicts were heartbreaking, no doubt. But the book is equally if not more about the economic and legal environments that lie beneath. The story is meth addiction as the symptom, not the problem. The author goes into detail regarding the consolidation of the food industry and how it affected so many small towns. He talks about how Big Pharma lobbyists help pass laws in Washington, D.C., that ultimately help drug traffikers. He talks about national and local politics, both the official and unofficial kind, that exacerbate the problems while claiming to be solving them. And he explains it all in manner that I can actually follow and understand.

Reding has been accused of shoddy journalistic practices with regard to some details in Methland. The accusations may be true, I don't know. There is also a feeling of sensationalism every now and then. But then again, I don't have any clue what it's like to be in the situation these towns and people are in. How would I know if it's realistic or not? I hope I never find out. All that aside, I feel like my sheltered, middle-class, suburban eyes have been opened to some issues that I never really knew existed. Even if some of the details are wrong, awareness going forward can't be a bad thing.


bermudaonion said...

The manufacture of meth is a huge problem in rural areas. This sounds like such an important book because this drug can ruin the lives of whole families so quickly. Thanks for the review.

Lezlie said...

Bermudaonion ~ I think those of us that live in urban/suburban areas can be quite blind to what goes on "out in the country". It's easy for us to mentally dismiss what we don't ever encounter in our own lives. Books like this help us connect.


Jeane said...

This sounds interesting to me only because my husband has recently started watching a TV show called "Breaking Bad" about a chemistry teacher who starts making meth to pay for his cancer treatment. I did not know anything about meth, its users or manufacture before watching that show. Of course it's drama, so the book (even if it's sensationalized in parts) is probably more accurate in facts than what I've been watching.

Lezlie said...

Jeanne ~ That show sounds great! As far as the book, the process of cooking meth is so incredibly dangerous, I can't believe people do it in their houses!


Literary Feline said...

Meth is such a huge problem. Many rural communities in my own county struggle with it--I'm probably more aware of it because of my job than the average person, admittedly, but it really is a more widespread problem than I think people realize. I agree that the problem is just a symptom of an even bigger problem.

Thanks for bringing this book to my attention, Lezlie!

Lezlie said...

Literary Feline ~ You're welcome! I think I initially heard about it from another blogger, but it was quite a while ago and I for the life of me can't remember who it was. :-(


3m.michelle said...

Meth is so scary. I know it's made inroads in the rural, small town I grew up in as well. It's just not the same place anymore.

Thanks for the review.

Lezlie said...

3M ~ I know a couple of people who have gotten caught up in it, and when you start to realize how huge the problem is, it's scary as hell.