The Milagro Beanfield War
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Milagro Beanfield War

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  5,282 ratings  ·  242 reviews
Joe Mondragon, a feisty hustler with a talent for trouble, slammed his battered pickup to a stop, tugged on his gumboots, and marched into the arid patch of ground. Carefully (and also illegally), he tapped into the main irrigation channel. And so began-though few knew it at the time-the Milagro beanfield war. But like everything else in the dirt-poor town of Milagro, it w...more
Mass Market Paperback, 623 pages
Published February 12th 1987 by Ballantine Books (first published 1974)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Arian
Mar 19, 2007 Arian rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, damnit.
This is my favorite damn book of all time ever. If you don't like it, I'm liable to punch you in the genitals.

Ostensibly, the book is about a water-rights squabble in a small town in New Mexico. But the book is so much more: the differences between the Mexican and American cultures, believing in miracles, political dissidence, and all of the ridiculously awesome characters that the author breathes life into.

There's Amarante Cordova, the ageless wonder who has been dying since birth, only to out...more
J
Que Viva Snuffy Ledoux!

I read this book 35 years ago for the first time when I was fifteen years old. It remains one of my all time favorites. After re-reading - because one of my friends told me I reminded him of Amarante Cordova - and because I always considered myself to be more of a Jose Mondragon - the themes remain contemporary. They remind me why I consider this timeless piece of literature to be such a great demonstration of artistry and craftsmanship.

Milagro Beanfield War is an enchant...more
Matthew
I was really enjoying this book for the first couple hundred pages, especially since I grew up watching the film and so I already had a huge affection for the story and the main characters. However, somewhere around page 300 I couldn't take it anymore. I don't know why everybody who pops into a scene has to have a lengthy backstory. It contributes nothing to my appreciation of a novel when the author digresses for five pages every time a new character, however insignificant, wanders onto the pag...more
Carol
How could illegally irrigating a small field of beans cause such chaos and mayhem? This is an uproariously funny book. I enjoyed the characters mini-stories throughout the book. I was charmed by the nature descriptions. Although this was set in New Mexico, it reminded me so much of the Colorado Rockeies where our family vacationed most of my life.

I just borrowed the VHS tape of this movie from the library. It was directed by Robert Redford. Very Good. A few minor changes from the book, but true...more
Oleg Kagan
Replacing the magical realism of One Hundred Years of Solitude with a healthy dose of earthy humor gives us John Nichols' mini-epic The Milagro Beanfield War. Throughout Nichols' chronicle of the eruption of a long-brewing feud between the rich and poor, city and rural, Spanish and Anglo people of a small New Mexico-ish region, we are treated to all sorts of entertaining folktales. And these aren't just of the past, The Milagro Beanfield War is full of entertaining characters from Pacheco's Pig,...more
Ben
Aug 15, 2008 Ben rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ben by: God and Circumstance
"You can't buy bullets with food stamps," says Nick Rael, the store owner of the one store in Milagro, New Mexico, when Amarante Cordova peals off four one-dollar stamps and carefully lays them on the counter. This absurd scene in The Milagro Beanfield War, the first novel in John Nichols' epic New Mexico Triology, serves well enough to illustrate the power of Nichols' voice and the authority of his narrative, but Amarante takes his bullets and shuffles off to stand guard over Joe Mondragon's co...more
Stephen
I ended up really liking this book even though I wasn't sure at first.

This book tells the story of a very small, poor town, down close to the border in New Mexico. The town itself is almost exclusively latino. However, they or their people have lived there so long that it is difficult to know what they would call themselves.
The story framework is all about water rights. Many years ago, big business and selfish government had weezled the people's water rights away from them (for a huge resort p...more
Josh
I can't believe I'm saying this but the movie is better. The whole reason I wanted to read the book -- and why I put it off for so long -- is that I love the movie. I had the usual presumption that the book must be better than the movie but also feared it wouldn't be.

The movie does a lot of what Nichols should have done. It distills what's good about the book into a more potent story. Instead of hauling in a hundred half-baked characters -- and at least a dozen one-off characters who unnecessar...more
JoyfulK
I first read The Milagro Beanfield War years ago, but in June 2009, while traveling, encountered the author's photo essay about how he came to write the book. That got me interested in a re-read. It was worth it. Nichol's prose is dense and rich, so descriptive that I find myself re-reading paragraphs just for the joy of the images evoked by the words.

This novel contains a large number of finely drawn characters with fascinating back stories, which Nichols manages to weave into the main narrativ...more
Miguel
Aug 29, 2007 Miguel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of Steinbeck and all
I found myself within the first few minutes of reading this book, laughing out loud. This has a particular appeal to me, because I am a native to New Mexico and a Chicano...but I would not necessarily say that it excludes others from understanding its very unique style. Perhaps it can be noted that if you do happen to hail from the southwest, its charm and originality, along with the added plus of some very comical Spanish create a very delightful bonus. Otherwise I recommend this book to any an...more
Milo
ONE OF MY TOP 5 BOOKS OF ALL TIME........

Number one in the New Mexico Trilogy. Superb reading and funny as hell. Character development that is absolutely unique. Funny, moving, sensitive and educational. A real story of the plight of poor Northern New Mexican natives as the face the problems and costs of new development.

Amarante, in his 80's and as lovable as can be sits quietly and talks with ghosts, Joe Mondragon accidentally kicks out a water dam and begins watering his father's field, illeg...more
Katie
Fantasy realism or realistic fantasy but either way John weaves magic over a story that you know but yet it is a novel. He is one of the best character writers I have come across and moves them through a touching but funny and real storyline. I have not read the other two books (Magic Journey and Nirvana Blues), and I am almost scared to because I have heard they are not as good.

I tried to find a good used hard copy for Kirk a few years ago for his birthday. So I went to the one good used books...more
Matt
This book is excellent. It has incredibly intricate character depth. Nichols introduces more characters in the beginning of the book than the reader thinks he can handle and then proceeds to introduce the reader to all these characters in such a way that the reader feels like a resident in this small New Mexican town.
This book has a wonderful struggle of the people against "the system" and "big money". At times it is laugh out loud funny. It also is powerful. This book took about 10 pages for m...more
Diane
Yes, this is the book on which Redford's well-known movie was based. I haven't seen the movie but really enjoyed the book. Somewhat reflective of the attitude of the time (late 60s, early 70s) but timeless as well. And funny. Laugh-out-loud funny in places. Great sense of time and place. I describe it as a New Mexico "Red Green". But darker. Now I want to see the movie although it couldn't begin to capture all the hilarious details and subplots of a 500-page book. Highly recommended.
Cheryl
This rather long novel was delightful, gutsy, ribald, funny (laugh out loud), charming, sweet and colorful. The story telling is the best ever, a little like Steinbeck, only funnier. The story line offers a stretch to the imagination and a leap from your regular reality. Set in New Mexico, the sites and smells and temperments of these small town characters jump off the page. Highly entertaining. I learned life is what you make it: take a chance!
Elliott
The Milagro Beanfield War as a recipe:

In a large bowl, add equal parts John Irving, Ken Kesey, Berkeley CA, and New Mexico. Mix well and bake under a desert sun until parched.

Serve caliente with a side of frijoles, warm tortillas, and liberal amounts of hot sauce.

The result is a mildly satisfying yet complex dish with flavors of history, race and ethnicity, and land and water rights.

Buen Provecho!
Charlotte
Only twice in my life have I enjoyed a film adaptation more than the book upon which it was based. This was one of them. Interestingly, the film adaptation of The Milagro Beanfield War is my all-time favorite movie. I was in my mid-20's the last time I read this book. Perhaps I will try it again, nearer to 40.
Rheama Smith
I'm always sad when I decide to give up on a book. It feels like euthanasia. But sometimes I have to grit my teeth and put the book down. This was one of those cases. I wanted to love The Milagro Beanfield War because of its uniqueness and quirkiness, but the sheer number of characters and amount of back story was overwhelming. I appreciate Nichols taking the time to create an entire town full of people, past and present, but he didn't need to include every single one of them in his final draft....more
Grace
I was a little leery about this book when I first got into it. A cast of thousands--and all sharing, at most, 5 last names. There were sidetracks and flashbacks and meandering moments of conversation, but OMG, the characterization of the people who live in the bleak little town of Milagro just blew me away. No need for me to summarize the plot as it's available to read on GR and multiple places. And honestly, the plot is secondary to the characters who populate Milagro.

Nichols' prose is layered...more
Fran Darling
I finally finished the re-read of this book...loved the "spanish" literary fantasy, and biting cultural/political overtones. The characters are exceptional and wonderful, once you get used to the vast list of past and present "players." The underlying tensions go back centuries as a struggle between the natives and the transplant "New Mexicaners" right up to the present day. Land ownership and people's rights are always in play. The story is vast, but precise centering on the illegal watering of...more
Mason Wiebe
Before I started this, all I knew about this book was that it had something to do with the Southwest and that Nichols’s name often comes up in the Mountain Gazette and in the same circles as people like Mary Sojourner and Ed Abbey. Apparently it was made into a movie in ’88.
It all takes place in the small town of Milagro in the northern New Mexico mountains. This is a typical small mountain town, full of characters, pick-up trucks and anger toward the government. The two main differences betwee...more
Joann
My father's review:
10/4/08
The book and the movie are both near classics, now, so most of you have probably read or seen one or the other, or both. Despite awareness that they existed and are highly recommended, only now have we watched the DVD.
The movie is done as an emotional wallop. Love! Love of neighbors, love of place, love of community, love of a particular revered old man and his love in return. I am hooked and have corrected past neglect by ordering both the book and the DVD for our own...more
Joe
I really want to give this a 4.5, but alas. . . . I've opted for five stars because it's such a marvel of a novel in general and when the comic scenes are hitting they are banging loudly. The truncated point five would be a result of Nichols's tendency toward over-realizing his minor characters and the congruent scenes. While I heartily recommend this novel, it might be useful for a first-time reader to keep a list of important characters. So I've included one so that you don't get too sidetrack...more
A
The Milagro Beanfield War was one of those books that Goodreads thought I would like and I thought I should like. But I couldn't even finish. And I tried. I made it through slightly more than half of the book. And while I found the characters compelling and their plight interesting the lack of a good plot kept me from finishing.

My reading of this book languished for over two weeks with a few pages at a time being read. FInally, I decided I needed a break, so I picked up another book and read it...more
Samilja
Anticipating a SW trip with the girls in August. Perfect way to gear up.

UPDATE
This book is rich in character and characters. It's obvious Nichols wrote this from real experience in the southwest, specifically New Mexico. That's not to say the book is a literal depiction. Quite the contrary...or maybe, partially the contrary.

Milagro, the book, is peppered with superstition, fate, spirits and yes, miracles. Milagro, the fictional town and stage for our brightly colored story, is peppered with ecce...more
Gill
This book centers on the troubles of a latino community in New Mexico. It explores how they have been progressively dispossessed of their resources and heritage. The crux of the book is based on Joe watering a beanfield where he has no irrigation rights and how this little beanfield becomes a symbolic place that stirs scales of power into action.

I enjoyed this book. Yet I feel like the last 100 pages could have been substantially reduced and were primarily about the author inserting several disp...more
Renee
Milagro, NM, resident persists in illegally (ie, sans water rights) siphoning off water to feed his small bean field, despite law enforcement's (and others'), "encouragement" of him to cease & desist. This persistence sparks a local revolution of sorts.

Frankly, it was an effort to finish this book. It wasn't a terrible read and it DID bring to life the politics, dynamics and struggles of small, poor, border-state town with the inherent cultural clashes between Anglos & Latinos. That said...more
Saskia Marijke Niehorster-Cook
Though at first it was hard to immerse myself in this world due to a lot legal jargon and political dealings, once past that, the world of this miraculous town and the people that live in it became a loved place where I would like to belong, if not write more about. Mr. Nichols sure has a sadistic and dry sense of humor that had me chuckling and gripping tight at the same time. What a ride! I read it at a time when my own family dealings felt like a war as well and escaping one world to emerge o...more
Alisa
Characters, characters, characters! So many characters, both in the sense of a "a cast of characters" and in the sense of "what a character!" The first third or so of this book was all about exposition and introducing the many people that populate Milagro. It might have been just too many people to keep track of or care about, except they were so memorably unique: pebble-flinging Mercedes, seemingly-immortal Amarante Cordova and his huge gun, one-armed Onofre with his three-legged dog, and oh, p...more
Jo Ann
This is quite a book...the characters (and there are lots of them!) are real, hilarious, touching, and some are mean-spirited and selfish. Taking place in a small town in northern New Mexico, Milagro, it's a story about Joe Mondragon, 36, frustrated and poor, who illegally taps into the main irrigation system to water his bean field. So begins the "War" between Joe, the locals who finally support him, and Big Business. There's lots of magical realism, the beauty of a small community and the outl...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Red Sky at Morning
  • Alburquerque
  • Stones for Ibarra
  • The Brave Cowboy: An Old Tale in a New Time
  • The Beet Queen
  • The Great Taos Bank Robbery
  • English Creek
  • Pocho
  • A Yellow Raft in Blue Water
  • La Maravilla
  • Little Big Man
  • The Big Sky
  • The Revolt of the Cockroach People
  • Diary of the War of the Pig
  • The Big Rock Candy Mountain
  • At Play in the Fields of the Lord
  • George Washington Gomez: A Mexicotexan Novel
  • The Ox-Bow Incident
22099
John Nichols is the author of the New Mexico trilogy, a series about the complex relationship between history, race and ethnicity, and land and water rights in the fictional Chamisaville County, New Mexico. The trilogy consists of The Milagro Beanfield War (which was adapted into the film The Milagro Beanfield War directed by Robert Redford), The Magic Journey, and The Nirvana Blues.

Two of his oth...more
More about John Nichols...
The Magic Journey The Nirvana Blues The Sterile Cuckoo The Empanada Brotherhood The New Mexico Trilogy: The Milagro Beanfield War / The Magic Journey / The Nirvana Blues

Share This Book

“Listen cousin, the way things are supposed to work out, one day the struggles of all you screwed up little underdogs will forge a permanent rainbow that'll encircle this entire earth, I should live so long.” 5 likes
“Sooner or later Cleofes is gonna get it.” 2 likes
More quotes…