The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols is what our book club read last month. It was supposed to be an easy read (because it is summer), but some of us found it was not so easy. It’s not difficult reading, it’s just longer than the “easy” reads usually are, and for me, it just wasn’t all that interesting – which made it hard to keep picking it up and reading for any length of time.
It was also supposed to be funny, but I’ve found before that I don’t always share the book club leader’s sense of humor. I found the characters ridiculous at times, but that’s not the same as funny.
I realize there’s a serious theme behind it all, about who has power and who doesn’t, and the struggles of those who don’t have power to hold on to what little they have. But the author spent so much time going on and on telling far-fetched stories about odd people that it was hard to figure out, for most of the book, whether the power struggle over land and water rights really was central to the novel or not.
I know that exaggeration is often used for comic effect, but for me at least, it is effective only when used sparingly. An odd trait in someone may be endearing, and an eccentric in a community may give it character. But a community where everyone seems to do outrageous things all the time? I find that sort of attempt at humor more tiresome than funny.