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The Milagro Beanfield War

(The New Mexico Trilogy #1)

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  9,483 ratings  ·  420 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
Paperback, 456 pages
Published February 15th 2000 by Holt McDougal (first published 1974)
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Keith Preston Adult. Language, sexual content, some mild violence.

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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  9,483 ratings  ·  420 reviews

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Mar 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Dan Porter
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
I know The Milagro Beanfield War is a cult classic, but based on a cursory perusal of the reviews, I’d say it’s a book that you either love or don’t. I won’t say you love it or hate it because I found very little actual animosity toward it in the negative reviews. Those readers just couldn’t seem to get into the book.

My feelings about the book are somewhere between the love and don’t love ends of the spectrum. For me, reading it was like an unsatisfying/unsuccessful romantic endeavor. Part 1 of
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
Aug 28, 2009 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jun 10, 2011 rated it liked it
My friend Cathy and I went to Santa Fe and found that Robert Redford was filming this movie. So we decided to go watch them film. We got to the gate and I lied by saying that we were with the press, but then Cathy had to go and tell the truth. So, we didn't get in to see him. That night we were at a bar in Santa Fe and ran into the crew, and one of their members said that we could come to watch them film the next day. But alas, we were leaving town in the morning. The book and the movie were ...more
Rheama Heather
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 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. At first it was
Aug 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Gregory Daily
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great read and funny as heck. Points out that water is the life blood of the west. I think I met Joe Mondragon or his twin. I think I want to visit New Mexico.
Christine Boyer
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History of New Mexico, environmental issues
Whew! That was a long one! One of those massive, epic-style novels that we used to see so much of in the 1970s and 1980s. I feel like I've been living in the fictional town of Milagro, New Mexico for the last month - the time it has taken me to finish this!

I visited New Mexico last summer and loved everything about it! This author did such a great job with setting that I was immediately transported back through his vivid descriptions. I also loved the quirky, multi-layered characters of the
Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Todd Hickman
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the sense of humor and the quirky, unforgettable characters. The young job corps guy (or whatever he was) was a real hoot, and I could put my self in the shoes of the people of Milagro, though I doubt if I would have been as polite about it as they were.
A nice twist was that the more the system seemed to defeat Joe Mondragon, the more he seemed to win.
I think I would like to visit northern New Mexico to see if the culture was really as he described it. Not that I doubt John Nichols,
May 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
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
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing

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,
Jul 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
This is the second time I've read this book and it sure seemed shorter and funnier the first time around. I still found the funny parts funny, but probably not as funny as the first time. This time I was thinking about the author wondering if he was a combination of the lawyer Bloom and the volunteer Herbie G. The first time the book was a phenomenon, this time I was looking for the man behind the curtain.
It is basically about how the State and the white people rip off the Spanish speaking
Mary Sue
Jul 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Milagro is a dying town In northern New Mexico. Water conservancy has routed their already minimal water supply to benefit big agriculture to the South and nearby resorts. On a whim that even he doesn't understand, feisty Joe Mondragon diverts the water to irrigate his small beanfield. In essence that was a declaration of war against the government and big money investors. Wonderfully colorful characters. Great sense of place. What a fun read.
Sep 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Funny as hell. Gritty, witty, dirty, and fun.
Ronna Nussbaum-langley
Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Published in 1974, this is one of my ALL TIME favorites. The writing is smart and it's definitely the funniest book I've ever read. Highly recommend it!!!!!
Benj FitzPatrick
Aug 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
By far it was one of the funniest books I've read (up there with Hitchhikers Guide), and it accomplished this while presenting a representative portrait of northern NM.
Danique Blankvoort
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
You should read “The Milagro Beanfield War” written by John Nichols because it is successful novel. First and foremost, the novel truly captures the spirit of New Mexico culture, feisty with a modern Southwestern blend. The vivid imagery along with the mix of Spanish and Anglo culture creates a recipe for an enthralling plot that accurately portrays the essence of New Mexico. Secondly, Nichols’ usage of a drawn-out plot creates a plethora of tensions. Utilizing the common, but fitting, good guy ...more
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't the type of book I usually pick up, but it was so widely discussed back in the late 1970s, early '80s, that I read it and decided it was okay. But I didn't keep my copy.

A couple of years ago, I brought home a newer edition of the book, thinking that I should read it because it is a classic of the times and I didn't remember much about the story except that it was activism of some kind.

While not a page-turner, it did hold my interest. The cursing and foul language (often creative) is a
May 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Although John Nichols has written some fifteen or more books, this is the one that counted. It stands out from the rest of his work as if from a Buddhist burst of contemplation. Let's face it, some writers hit the mark at once in a big way, and struggle the rest of their careers to come close to it again.

No matter! The Milagro Beanfield War is a splendid book, well worth reading by anyone -- and me, no less, who will be in New Mexico within a few short weeks. I haven't laughed so hard for
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it
A bit hyperbolic, but nonetheless decent prose and a fun story centered about age old land and class struggles in New Mexico. You can definitely tell it was written by a transplant much like Herbie Goldfarb in the novel. The characters were for the most part carboard and none of them really change throughout the novels meandering 500 pages. The Latino characters almost seem like caraciatures with their incessant cussing, slang biting and backwoods behavior. The book was clearly written by a ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is very funny. The small town full of characters who all know each other and all their relatives is a story told about how the poor fight against the rich developers -- and win!! Much to everyone's amazement. Must be a miracle.
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
This was originally published at The Scrying Orb.

Check out this cover: A skeleton in a sombrero with a bottle of tequila. Intentionally yellowed page edges. A brick of mass market paperback in that unmistakable font that used to signify A BOOK to me before trade paperbacks took over and the construction of the book itself became stylized. Along with the funny title, these are the reasons I picked this up for three dollars (more than its original sale price) and took it home.

Do you ever stop to
May 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished a re-read of this novel. I read it every few years or so, and love it every time. The characters are all so great. Amarante Cordova is the guy that, if you don't know someone like him, is the guy who *should* exist, at least somewhere out there. Let's face it -- life isn't fair, and Amarante is living (or would be, if he weren't a fictional character) proof of that fact.

He is only the most memorable among a huge cast of memorable characters, though. Horsethief Shorty Wilson (so
Cliff Dolph
Jul 16, 2015 rated it liked it
When I posted a picture last winter of my annual haul at the University Women's book sale, my old college roommate said, "Let me know how it goes with The Milagro Beanfield War. I guessed from that comment that the book would be interesting and maybe challenging. Indeed, it is a big and complicated novel, and my response to it is complicated.

What I didn't like: The novel is bigger than it needs to be. I'm coming to realize that I'm partial to tightly written books, and this one is not. It
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols is a great example of what a good a very entertaining novel should be. Some prime examples as to how John Nichols demonstrates the masterfully crafted story in his novel is through such things as realistic humor, compelling and relatable characters, and the usage of magical realism that helps set the stage for an engaging story that keeps the readers hooked on every page. The essay will explain how The Milagro Beanfield War succeeds as a great novel and ...more
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The Milagro Beanfield War has been on my bucket list since I saw the movie 30 years ago. Last year I spied a tattered yellow copy in the free box of Blue Cypress Book Store in New Orleans. It's been staring at me from my bedside table ever since. When I finally dug into Milagro, there was no stopping. It was like kapow---a blast from the past--an old school novel written when novelists saw everything and were not afraid to pound out each detail and backstory on their typewriters. Every damn ...more
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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

Other books in the series

The New Mexico Trilogy (4 books)
  • The Magic Journey
  • The Nirvana Blues
  • The New Mexico Trilogy: The Milagro Beanfield War / The Magic Journey / The Nirvana Blues
“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.” 6 likes
“Sooner or later Cleofes is gonna get it.” 3 likes
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