From Publishers Weekly
Using what he calls a "live-in reporting strategy," Reding's chronicle of a small-town crystal meth epidemic-about "the death of a way of life as much as... about the birth of a drug"-revolves around tiny Oelwein, Iowa, a 6,000-resident farming town nearly destroyed by the one-two punch of Big Agriculture modernization and skyrocketing meth production. Reding's wide cast of characters includes a family doctor, the man "in the best possible position from which to observe the meth phenomenon"; an addict who blew up his mother's house while cooking the stuff; and Lori Arnold (sister of actor Tom Arnold) who, as a teenager, built an extensive and wildly profitable crank empire in Ottumwa, Iowa (not once, but twice). Reding is at his best relating the bizarre, violent and disturbing stories from four years of research; heftier topics like big business and globalization, although fascinating, seem just out of Reding's weight class. A fascinating read for those with the stomach for it, Reding's unflinching look at a drug's rampage through the heartland stands out in an increasingly crowded field.
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For this powerful, terrifying look at the drug epidemic in America's heartland, Reding studied meth production and addiction in Oelwein over four years. The book's strength lies in its character studies and depictions of destroyed families -- many not for the squeamish -- as well as in its explanation of how meth producers integrate their operations to become major conglomerates. Despite the persuasive narrative, a few reviewers noted a weakness in Reding's attempt to link larger socioeconomic forces (such as the rise of agribusiness) to small towns' meth use and production. But the coupling of classic reporting and a compelling, timely story make Methland
a book well worth reading.