Book Review: "Empire of Pain" by Patrick Radden Keefe
4/5 - America's newest epidemic turned inside-out...
I think I can say that many of us have seen those programs on Netflix that talk about the American Painkiller Epidemic. I think many of us have even tried some of these painkillers and felt darn good after them. I even bet that some of you sitting here today are possibly addicted to them. But there is one thing for sure - if you’re going to write a book or make a documentary about it, it is better if you are on the inside of the situation rather than standing on the outside. It is no criticism towards this book for its author was very much outside of the situation, but I can state that there have been better attempts to grab my interest when it comes to the word ‘OxyContin’. I am a person who loves personal stories, which is why I love listening to people who have stories to tell about journeys they have been on and such. It is just incredible to listen to someone talk with such a passion. Some of this book here, because of the research aspect, falls rather flat at the beginning, but as we get into the grittiness of the story there is a definite attempt to make this more about the entire ‘game plan’ surrounding the drug rather than a boring research paper which many of us would be familiar with. So, there are definitely very good points to this book, but there is always room for improvement in the eyes of your average reader.
The book starts off with the lives of the patriarchs of the industry, the story of the father of the man who would start the business of painkillers. It tells us about the way in which they lived and sounds rather much like an essay of research that has been painstakingly analysed in order to create a formidable story. Some of it ends up falling flat and some of it, though pretty interesting, has no emotion whatsoever. As we gain momentum through the book we get more and more of a readerly tone to the book and less of the research that has been smooshed together to make a story. When we come around to the empire actually being built, we get what is the most interesting and readable part of the book. Descriptive and analytical, it is perfectly balanced to make every reader’s eyes wide with surprise at the fact that nobody saw anything coming (obviously, in hindsight everyone sees everything but at the time, nothing at all) it just looked like a man building his life - nothing nefarious at the moment. But the tension and grip is so high that this makes the readability incredible and clever.
When we keep reading, we discover the nefarious details as the empire grows and grows and we also discover how the OxyContin crisis was basically manufactured by big corporations in order to keep people spending money on the medicine. If you have watched that Netflix documentary series about the father of a boy who died from OxyContin related actions, you will know exactly how malevolent this can get even on a smaller scale than where it is within this book. The scale investigated in this book is a nationwide (and even International) epidemic in which the small scale documentary series is simply a statistic. The hurtful truth is exactly how many people we have lost to the OxyContin crisis. I have lost a friend, you have lost a family member, you have lost a friend or an employee, a cousin or even your brother. This book may detail the intricacy but it boils up a massive anger within.