The Talisman begins and ends with the same scene: a boy, too tall for his age, standing out by the edge of the ocean, looking out. But there is a vast difference in the boy at the beginning and at the end, and contained within the book's weighty 770 pages is the epic quest in which we discover why.
Jack Sawyer, the novel's preadolescent protagonist, is a boy who has lost his father at a young age and is now in the process of losing his mother to a frightening cancer. Complicating matters is Jack's Uncle Morgan Sloat, a wretch of a man who is very good at making Jack's mother (an ex-B movie actress named Lily Cavenaugh Sawyer) a living hell. At the novel's commencement, Jack and Lily are hiding from Sloat at the Alhambra Inn in New Jersey, near a dilapitated amusement park. It is at this amusement park that Jack begins his quest.
A kindly black man named Speedy Parker meets Jack, and they talk about his mother's condition. After some time, Speedy produces a glass flask with something that looks like grape juice in it. Jack sips it ... and flips.
It seems that, as Jake in The Gunslinger said, there are other worlds than these. Jack comes to learn that the only way to save his mother is by embarking on a cross-country trek that spans space, time, and dimensions, to find a mysterious object known only as The Talisman. The "magic juice" brings Jack into a land known as The Territories, where magic works like our science and almost every person and place has a "Twinner", a Territories counterpart. And the forces in both worlds are set to stop Jack ... at any cost.
This is a coming-of-age journey for Jack, a road of trials that tests his will and sanity. Along the way, he will be employed in a hellish bar known as the Oatley Tap, experiance a tunnel horror in a sequence so riveting and scary it rivals the Lincoln Tunnel of The Stand, befriends a childlike werewolf who turns out to be very important to Jack, and takes a stand at a Black Hotel, which may be one of the many analogues to THE DARK TOWER ITSELF!!! Recomended reading for fans of both King and Straub.