Spain’s 18th-century incursion into California sets the scene for this historical fiction. Three powerful stories intertwine: an epic tale of love and survival. Here is a synopsis of Five Hundred Moons.

Five Hundred Moons spans the years 1749 to 1793. The locations vary, but principally, the story takes place in Spain, France, Mexico, and California. Three separate stories intertwine, become a single narrative, and eventually reach a harmonious conclusion.

story synopsis

The first story is that of the Ohlone Indians along the Central California coast and what happens to them when the Spanish Empire decides to colonize the region. Needless to say, their culture is destroyed despite the resiliency of a medley of native individuals who attempt to defend and keep their way of life. Charquin, chief of the Quiroste tribe and a historical figure, plays a key role in this struggle, as does his daughter Nayem, who becomes the village shaman. Across Monterey Bay, another Ohlone Indian, Tiuca, interacts with Junípero Serra in and around the Carmel Mission, becoming a trusted acolyte, then turning on the Father President and retreating to the mountains and the shattered world of his native people. Some of the intrigues involve twins separated at birth, an intertribal war, a grizzly bear attack, deer and elephant seal hunts, the burning of Santa Cruz Mission, and the murder of a Franciscan priest.

The second storyline chronicles Father Serra and his two Franciscan colleagues, Francisco Palóu and Juan Crespí. Their journey starts in Mallorca, Spain, moves to Mexico, and ends in Alta California. Serra plays the central role and every attempt is made to get inside his head and explore the forces that drive him to establish the Californian missions and to convert the indigenous people to Catholicism. His tactics in accomplishing his goals are questionable at best. Serra is a complex individual, and my hope is to gain a deeper understanding of his beliefs and motivations, as seen through the perspectives of his time.

The third story is about the Carmonas, a Gypsy family imprisoned in Spain during the Great Gypsy Roundup of 1749. The husband, Ager, is separated from his family and through a sequence of calamitous events, winds up on a Spanish galleon off the coast of California. His wife, Papina, escapes with their two children from Malaga prison and flees to France where she finds safety, despite the growing social unrest that portends the coming French Revolution. Their son, Graile, and later their daughter, Drina, both find their way to California; he by joining the Catalonian Guards, and she as a guest onboard a ship that sailed in 1785 as part of the ill-fated Lapérouse scientific expedition. Adding to the storyline is a priest who quits the Catholic Church to pursue Papina’s hand and a love affair between Drina and Commander Lapérouse.

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An Epic Tale of Love and Survival: A Synopsis of Five Hundred Moons

Five Hundred Moons now available in paperback and Kindle editions.

Read an excerpt of
Five Hundred Moons here.

a masterful epic that will keep readers enthralled
from beginning to end

John Collins II

There is no one protagonist in the novel, but rather a collection of noble characters that do heroic things despite the tribulations of oppression and subjugation they encounter. If I were to name an antagonist it would be the omnipresent power of the monarchial state and the hierarchical domination of the Catholic Church. These forces had shaped society for hundreds of years, but in the mid-eighteenth century, their rule is being challenged by principles put forth by philosophers of the Enlightenment. New ideas emphasizing the sovereignty of reason as the primary source of knowledge are starting to radically change how people view the world and the way they are governed. Freedom, tolerance, fraternity, equality, and separation of church and state are dominant themes informing the storylines of the novel.

The quality of Anderson’s writing
cannot be overstated.

Grace Carr Lee and Mark S. Lee

California in the late eighteenth century was a long way from the revolutionary ideas being espoused in Europe and the east coast of North America. It was on the farthermost lands of the Spanish Empire where the old ideas of paternalism and absolutism were still prevalent, as exemplified by Franciscan authority and secular autocracy. A clashing of ideologies, which included the animism of the Ohlone, the Catholicism of the Franciscans, and the seepage of Enlightenment ideas coming from Mexico and beyond, all played a part in the colonization and early history of California.

Five Hundred Moons is neither a scholarly treatise nor a theological book. I’d like to think of it as a story of human behavior amid the forces of great change. The people, some historical, some not, are the meat of the story. They experience the wide gamut of human emotions universal to all cultures. Their saga happens to occur during a tumultuous time in world history.

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vibrant, descriptive, and well-researched

Bruce Sanchez

What readers are saying about Five Hundred Moons

Story elements: 18th-century romance adventure, Spanish conquest of California, Junípero Serra missions, murder, romance, treason, clergy, monarchy, inquisition, colonization, California Indian historical thriller, literary fiction over 600 pages

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