As the subtitle states, Nick Reding's new book Methland chronicles "The Death and Life of an American Small Town." The town in question is Olewein, Iowa, where rural, small town life has been ravaged by methamphetamine addiction and the criminality that comes with it. Representative of many economically depressed Midwestern towns, Olewein found itself nearly destroyed by a combination of factors which contributed to a sudden tremendous surge in meth use. The author states that in the early 1990’s, local meatpacking plants were being acquired by giant corporations such as Gillette and Tyson. These corporations, in turn, ousted the union, slashed wages drastically, and eliminated workers’ compensation and medical coverage, leading to a flight of workers and to a decrease in the population. While methamphetamine abuse had been present in Olewein before, it suddenly became economically attractive to manufacture “crank” and deal it.
Residents found that they could make more money through meth production than they could hope to earn legally. Home meth labs sprang up all over Olewein, creating toxic hazards to residents, particularly children. Crimes related to meth use, not typically seen before, caused further erosion in the quality of town life, and more drug addicts and criminals moved in, attracted by the depressed housing prices and the apparent lack of police control over the situation. The town was on a death spiral, but as the title indicates, life has come back to Olewein. How this transpired makes for a very compelling, but harrowing true story.
Review by Evelyn Fischel