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The Milagro Beanfield War (The New Mexico Trilogy #1)

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,690 Ratings  ·  290 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
Paperback, 456 pages
Published February 15th 2000 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1974)
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Community Reviews

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Mar 19, 2007 Arian 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 out
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 enchan
Aug 28, 2009 Matthew 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 pag ...more
Aug 15, 2008 Ben 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 co ...more
May 27, 2012 Josh 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 unnecessar
May 11, 2013 A 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
Jul 26, 2014 RhS 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 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.
Aug 29, 2007 Miguel 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 an ...more
Nov 16, 2008 Milo 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, illeg
Jan 08, 2009 Carol 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
Mary Sue
Jul 22, 2015 Mary Sue 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.
Oleg Kagan
Nov 14, 2013 Oleg Kagan rated it really liked it
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
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
Jun 09, 2009 Katie rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 02, 2009 Matt rated it it was amazing
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
Cliff Dolph
Jul 16, 2015 Cliff Dolph 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 indulg
Dec 28, 2013 Don rated it did not like it
I picked this one up because it was billed as part 1 on the "New Mexico Trilogy". Since, that is my home state and we don't get a lot of publicity, I was intrigued. The story was boring beyond belief and choked with political correctness. The book seems to have been written by one of those self-loathing white people. The brown people are cool and authentic and the gringos are a bunch of dolts. It was offensive to me. Enough so, that I didn't read the other books in the series. Something I rarely ...more
Jan 11, 2010 Diane rated it liked it
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.
Mar 31, 2009 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
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!
Mar 25, 2011 Elliott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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!
Christoph Knerr
So far I find this book a little annoying. Magical Realism is rarely my cup of tea, Italo Calvino excepted. I feel like the characters in the book are based off real people Nichols is taking cheap at, while trying (and rarely succeeding) to be funny.
I'm in the second section now, it's becoming more interesting, but still written in a style I find annoying.
Jun 15, 2016 Chris 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 c
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.
Michael Sump
Nov 26, 2014 Michael Sump rated it liked it
I rated it 3 stars, but I consider this a generous score. I liked the book and found it compelling and quite funny--but also really long. The premise is great, important even, but I think the story could have been told in 300-350 pages—instead of nearly 500. There's a lot of fluff. There are dozens of characters who are all quirky and charming and all have something to say about poverty and about the inevitable conflict between Anglos and Latinas. I think Nichols could have synthesized a number ...more
Bradley Ernst
Mar 31, 2016 Bradley Ernst rated it it was amazing
Nichols' first of three in a series. A standout. The key elements?

1. Characters who needed action, so they made it themselves. Who hasn't known a sleepy little town at the mercy of the rich and privileged?
2. Protagonists who remind us of ourselves, no matter who you are—our embarrassing selves we'd like to deny. The story transcends race, sex, and age. Heroes abound.
3. A stand: a call to arms answered by a who's who of unlikely heroes.

I snort-laughed in places. Not so in the second book, and b
Jan 31, 2016 Sharon 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 char ...more
Ronna Nussbaum-langley
Sep 21, 2011 Ronna Nussbaum-langley 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!!!!!
Laurie D'ghent
Apr 02, 2015 Laurie D'ghent rated it did not like it
I was forced to read this for a college class and I only made it a third of the way into it before I realized my eternal soul was not worth a grade. This book is rampant with sex, profanity and every offensive word I know (except one racial slur), and graphic animal cruelty. Totally disgusting. The worst part is, Nichols is a good author who creates believable characters and engaging situations--if he'd quit telling how each and every character likes to have sex, how often, and with who, along w ...more
WM Rine
Jan 18, 2015 WM Rine rated it it was amazing
It's hardly a perfect book, and yet it manages to tell a difficult tale of local people fighting big political power and moneyed interests with a verve and humor that Nichols would struggle to match again. (The bitterness of his next book, "The Magic Journey," would be more what one would expect when telling a story of the displacement of native New Mexicans after the coming of white folks.) This is as good a page-turner as you'll find. The large cast of characters from the little imagined town ...more
Tom Comte
Jun 25, 2015 Tom Comte rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly enjoyable book that, while focused on inequity, poverty and greed, tells the story with compassion, humor and through wonderful characters, no matter which side they are on. All the many characters are riddled with failings, emotions, bad and good bad behavior and complexity. One may take sides when reading the book, but even the "villains" are human and enjoyable. I started this thinking that the book seemed overly long, but came to love all the stories that made the place, Milagro ...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 oth
More about John Nichols...

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

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“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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