Our protagonist is Jack Sawyer. It’s 1981 and he’s on the cusp of turning 13. His father is dead, his mother is dying and she has scooped him up and fled to New Hampshire, and he doesn’t know why. She won’t admit she’s dying, or even that she’s sick, and Jack is angry and scared at everything she’s keeping from him.
His father’s business partner is relentlessly pursuing them both and this ads to Jack’s confusion. Uncle Morgan (not really his uncle) has been bullying his mother about something. It has to do with Jack’s father and it is clear that his mother wants nothing to do with Morgan’s plans. The more she resists, the angrier Morgan gets and Jack begins to wonder exactly what his father’s business was.
He also begins to remember when he was a little boy and would Daydream. His mother was quick to tell him to forget them, although lately he’s begun to see things he knows aren’t real. Humans don’t have eyes that turn to yellow and hands that turn to claws. Seagulls don’t rip oysters apart while staring at you, making it clear that they’d rather the oyster was your heart. The sand beneath your feet doesn’t spin and speak to you about your beloved and trusted Uncle Tommy’s sudden death. Tommy, the only person would could have protected your mother from Morgan.
The Talisman follows traditional folklore motifs which almost always makes me happy. Sometimes an author uses this structure and fails and it’s horrible, but in the gifted hands of King-Straub, it’s amazing. Jack follows the Hero’s Journey, finding a guide and friends to lead him on his path. Morgan and other enemies are constantly at his back, and Jack knows little about what his quest even is. He knows he needs to save his mother and now he knows there is another world.
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