Nick Reding is the author of The Last Cowboys at the End of the World, and his writing has appeared in Outside, Food and Wine, and Harper's. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, he decided to move back to his home town in the course of reporting this book.
A thoughtful exploration of the methamphetamine epidemic in the context of small-town America, this work centers on tiny Oelwein, IA, a microcosm of the devastating dynamic among rural life, economic instability, and meth. Reding (The Last Cowboys at the End of the World) studies macro-level forces, from the international drug trade to the influence of interest groups on U.S. regulatory activity. He traces the allure of meth production and consumption, faulting economic disadvantage and, in turn, the consolidation of the American food industry (crucial to Oelwein's troubles was the merger, and then closing, of a meatpacking plant). The book's power derives, however, from the immediacy and everyday reality of one small town, where Reding immerses himself, spending months with several heroic if hardly perfect residents-the doctor, prosecutor, and mayor-and two local meth addicts. With personal ties to the rural Midwest and to addiction, Reding is sympathetic and humane. He leaves Oelwein in the midst of a fragile but hopeful renaissance, with a new industrial park, library, and expanded downtown. The awareness remains that ruin can arrive anytime, by means of a drug that can be made in a kitchen sink. Recommended for general readers.-Janet Ingraham Dwyer, Worthington Libs., OH Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.