||Methland: Death and Life of an American Small Town
Posted: 1/13/2010 1:44:16 PM
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Nick Reding's Methland may be my pick for the nonfiction book of the year. It is, of course, a remarkably sad and disturbing tale of a small Iowa town caught in the throes of a full-on drug epidemic. The characters are great. The doctors, lawyers, and politicians are, in many ways, consumed by just as many doubts and uncertainties as the crank-heads. And everyone bears the costs of this health crisis. And of course, there is never enough help -- social workers are overburdened, the emergency room is at breaking point, and the mayor's office wants to build a call center. It is all kind of a tragedy, because no matter they do, it isn't enough.
But those are the outlines of the story you would probably expect from a book like this -- a smart account written by a journalist immersed his subject and sensitive to his subjects.
Yet it is Reding's ability to pullback and see the larger social forces behind the meth scourge that makes this book great, and so important. He links the rise of Meth to broad economic changes -- to the transformation of the rural industrial economy; in particular, to the disappearance of good, union jobs and the emergence and consolidation of agri-business. Actually, he show how monopolies in the drug trade and in the drug companies -- the legit ones -- have helped to create a fertile ground for the larger drug business and made drug laws almost impossible to enforce.
So this is a big book about big economic and political forces.
And in the end, like a good Springsteen song, there is a little hard earned redemption and a few reasons to believe.
See this review from popmatters, http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/117976-methland-the-death-and-life-of-an-american-small-town-by-nick-reding/
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