The story of Carruthers “Danni” McAllister, her enchanted pouch that does marvelous yet unpredictable things and her efforts to protect her family from a gang of kidnapping criminals started out as a series of bedtime stories Gerald N. Lund would tell his young children.
The tales he spun for his children instead of reading more traditional books continued, but after a move to California and changes in schedules, “it just kind of fizzled,” said Lund, who spent 35 years working in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Church Educational System and from 2002-08 served as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
“Every now and then, one of my children would ask, ‘When are you going to finish the story about Carruthers?’” Lund added.
Those bedtime stories were the genesis of his recent novel “The Guardian” (Deseret Book, $29.99).
Danni receives a pouch embroidered with “Le Guardien” from her grandfather that has been passed down through his family along with instructions to keep it with her and to remember the “Four Remembers” — you are unique, there is purpose to life, you are free to choose what you are and what you become, and you are not alone.
As her family discovers a rhodium mine and plans to sell it, criminals take their family hostage. With unusual and not always predictable help from the enchanted pouch, Danni and her younger brother escape and seek help from friends as they try to rescue their parents and grandfather.
Lund is the author of the nine historical novels in the Work and the Glory series and the Kingdom and the Crown trilogy along with "The Fire of the Covenant," “The Undaunted,” and the nonfiction “Divine Signatures” and “Look Up, My Soul: The Divine Promise of Hope.” He wrote three adventure novels — “The Alliance,” “Leverage Point” and “The Freedom Factor” — in the late 1970s and 1980s. He started the Work and the Glory series in the late 1980s.
“I had just finished the book on hope (titled “Look Up, My Soul: The Divine Promise of Hope”) and that was a really important book for me and it was the most difficult in terms of writing,” Lund said of how precise he wanted to be in the research and how the wording needed to be.
He was doing research for another historical fiction story when this idea of writing about Danni and her adventures with the enchanted pouch somewhat forcefully came up.
“'The Guardian’ is just plain plot, character and story,” Lund said of the 550-page novel. “It was just fun to write.”
And unlike many of his other books, his characters aren’t specifically Mormon. The McAllisters do go to church and are religious, but a particular faith isn’t mentioned.
“It’s what they are living that really matters,” Lund said.
He used the four remembers to show aspects of Mormon doctrine and living the gospel, and they are also things that he wants his children and grandchildren to know.
As he began to write, Lund knew he was going to need some help making sure he had the right voice and mannerisms for his main character — a teenage girl — both as the story is told from her point of view and journals.
He turned to his daughters, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. In all, eight of his grandchildren — five granddaughters and three grandsons from 12 to 18 years old who live locally — gave their feedback.
“Their input was really invaluable,” he said. “They thought it was really great.”
And they were honest in their feedback as they read drafts and he made changes and edits based on what they told him, including when they said he wasn’t using TMI (shorthand for too much information) quite right.
He also noted how young adults were portrayed in movies that he watched, too.
And then there was developing the character of the pouch.
“From the very first, I didn’t want this pouch to be like a genie in the lantern or the wizards and their wands and invisibility cloaks,” Lund said.
In certain situations, the pouch helped make her invisible, produced a toy gun that then shot real bullets, created a one-of-a-kind bobblehead and changed the lettering on a traffic sign — among other unexpected things. But there are times when the pouch does nothing in a situation when she expects it to.
And Lund also weaves in the stories of Danni’s ancestors and their remarkable experiences with the pouch.
“What could I have the pouch do that would blow Danni away?” Lund asked himself as he developed the pouch’s “character” and actions.
Danni is never quite sure what the pouch will do in a given moment as she tries to learn how the pouch works.
Embroidered with the words “Le Guardian” and several fleur-de-lis, “it’s an influence watching over her, not intervening, but letting her bump her nose and learn stuff, sometimes in a remarkable way,” Lund added.
It’s an entertaining story that is difficult to put down after the first few chapters of history and background.
The bedtime stories make up about seven or eight chapters of “The Guardian” and there are some other differences from the original stories, which had her father as a widowed billionaire with a trusted servant (who later became the grandfather). He also set “The Guardian” in Hanksville, Utah, instead of a much larger city.
“I wanted it to be a strong family,” Lund said. “She’s a pretty resourceful girl and I had to make that believable.”
Yet, the name Carruthers is one that he’s only heard one other time — and it was the name of a servant in a movie.
“I wanted it to be really unique and for her to have ambivalence about her name,” he said.
But, he still doesn’t remember how he originally came up with the name when he was telling those bedtime stories.
There are still more adventures to share about Danni and her pouch as he has been working on a sequel.
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