Father Junipero’s Confessor

Written by Nick Taylor
Review by Diane Scott Lewis

In the mid 1700s, Father Paloú, a young Franciscan friar from Mallorca, joins the exuberant and zealous Father Junípero Serra in his quest to reform the pagans of New Spain. In Baja, California, Paloú, known for his precise administration skills, is left behind to govern the established missions. He is distraught at not being allowed to follow his hero, Serra, into Alta California. Instead, Serra takes Paloú’s rival, the melancholy diarist, Father Juan Crespí. Years later, Paloú is called north to Monterey to help in the difficult conquering of the native population in the name of Christ. He is then instructed to assist in locating the Great Bay to be named after the Franciscan’s patron saint, San Francisco. Paloú encounters drunken Spanish soldiers, recalcitrant natives, starvation, and must face his own envy over Serra’s constant favoring of Crespí. Wavering in his priestly beliefs, Paloú never fails in his duty to the emerging missions that dot the fog-shrouded California coast. But his jealousy may destroy him and those he loves the most.

As a former Californian, I learned more about the history of my birth state from this book. Another important lesson is the cruelness of forcing religion on a populace, instead of just sharing your beliefs and education for the benefit of all. This is a beautifully written and well-paced story. These historical personages will incite sympathy but shock sensibilities as readers follow their true-life adventures in a savage land.