As Always, Jack by Emma Sweeney

As Always, Jack by Emma Sweeney is an epistolary memoir in that letters from Sweeney’s father to her mother are shared with several sections of explanation from Sweeney, herself.  After just 11 days together, Jack and her mother corresponded for a year and a half through letters as he went off to help stabilize the Pacific following WWII.  He wrote 45 letters to her mother over seven months in a oddball courtship that showcase her father’s wit and humor as well as his constant devotion.

In many ways the correspondence allowed the young lovers to get to know one another more intimately without the awkward face-to-face interactions.  They learned about their religious beliefs and their thoughts on infidelity when she tells Jack of her boss’ infidelity with one of the dental assistants.  Emma found her father’s letters to her mother after her mother’s death in the back of a drawer, but she never knew him in person as he died before she was born.

“I never told anyone of my discovery that day.  We lived in a big house, and, with twelve brothers and sisters, my things had a way of disappearing.  I put the letter and the photograph in the small cedar box I kept hidden under my bed.”  (page 4)

Jack was a funny man who liked to play cards and talk to his Bebe as much as he could, begging her for photos and tales of her trips to Florida from Coronado, California.  He made jokes, he took on personas, and he laughed at himself.  He wooed her with humor and honesty, and through his devotion, he garnered her love, which she eventually confessed in a letter to him, or at least that is what Jack says in one of his letters back to her.  What’s missing is her mother’s side of the letters and some explanations as to what Jack is referring to on occasion, but there are notations about dates and times in the letters that clarify some of the timeline.

However, this memoir is not only about the love that endures even through space and time, but also the discovery of a daughter of her true father and mother at time when they were youthful and full of hope.  As Always, Jack by Emma Sweeney is in a way a love letter from a daughter to a father.

About the Author:

Emma Sweeney is the author of several gardening books as well as a literary agent based in New York.  She formed her own agency in 2006 and has had five New York Times bestsellers, including the #1 New York Times best seller, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  She is a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives and the Women’s Media Group, where she served as its president in 2003. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a BA in English Literature.  She divides her time between New York City and Rhinebeck, New York.

If you’d like to win a copy of this book, please leave a comment on this post with an email address.  Deadline to enter is July 20, 2012; This is open GLOBALLY.

This is my 49th book for the New Authors Reading Challenge 2012.


  1. Emma Sweeney says

    Thanks, Serena, for your generous review! And I agree with the other comments – it’s really a very special thing to see our parents when they were young. Even though I never found my mother’s letters to my father, I could see in his letters the woman he fell in love with, and could appreciate my mother when she was young and beautiful .

    Thanks for all your kind comments!

  2. I would love to win this book. Thanks so much for the opportunity and the review.

  3. I would love to win this. I love epistolary novels and books about WWII. My grandpa fought in the war and flew in the Normandy invasion. Visiting there and following his diary and in his footsteps was amazing. I am happy the author found her father’s letters and was able to write a book and share her story with the world.

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed this book, too. I thought it was sweet, and I’m so glad the author found the letters and got to know her dad finally. My tour date is next week.

  5. My oldest son ran across an old diary of mine and he said in a very serious voice, “Wow, you were a teen with a real life before us!” Still makes me smile to this day. This book with the letters to help propel the story along sounds truly wonderful to me.

    • LOL, hilarious that he would say that, but I guess that would be true of any of us finding evidence of our parents’ pasts.

  6. People are always amazed at how well you can get to know someone from afar, but you really can as long as both parties are true to themselves in their writing. I’m sure lots of romances back then had a basis that began with letters.

  7. This sounds like a wonderful book. I love epistolary novels; I enjoy memoirs; I am drawn to the era of WWII. This is going on my wish list, while I hope to win a copy. Thanks for the giveaway.

  8. I love memoirs and I love epistolary novels, so I bet I would love this. Thanks for the giveaway – kathy(at)bermudaonion.net

  9. Trish makes a really good point. We rarely think of our parents as young people with those intense feelings. All we see is their lives after we take them over!

    • I remember finding out about my mom having a first husband when I found an old book in the attic that she had written her name in, but the last name was not her maiden name and was certainly not the last name of my father, so I had to ask her. Boy was she shocked that day.

  10. It’s so cool that the author was able to get to know her father when he was young — honestly, I can’t even imagine my parents as any way other than *adults*…and yet I know they were young and in love at one time!

    Thanks for being on the tour!

    • I’ve seen photos of my parents and heard stories at least about my dad as a young man, but mom has been pretty close-lipped about her past.

  11. I’d love to win a copy of this book. Thanks for the giveaway! 🙂

    [email protected]

  12. I think I could appreciate the format of this story. Thanks for the chance to win.


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