“A gem of a book, or an ache of a book really, every bit as amusing as it is moving.”
—Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Cleopatra: A Life
“This book is an intensely personal gift, one that cannot fail to tug the heartstrings, threaten tears, and leave the reader awash with a renewed sense of gratefulness for the sacrifices of the military and their families through the ages in the name of honor, duty, and patriotism. This book is an incredible gift, one I’ll not soon forget.”
—Booktalk & More
“As Always, Jack is a deeply moving tale of a passionate courtship and marriage, told through the letters of a young naval officer who would have gone on to make his name as a writer had he lived. The introductory essay by the couple’s daughter is as inspiring as it is perceptive. This is a book that will break your heart and restore your faith in the power of love.”
—Ellen Feldman, author of Next to Love
“From a hidden cache of letters Emma Sweeney has wrought an exquisite book—wise and funny and sad, and almost too moving to bear.”
—Simon Winchester, author of the New York Times bestseller The Professor and the Madman
In the days just after the end of World War Two, a young Texas Navy pilot named Jack Sweeney falls crazy in love with a California girl just before he is shipped off to the Pacific with his squadron. He woos her with letters and makes away with her heart. He returns safely; he marries her.
Over thirty years later, a young woman returns to her childhood home in California for her mother’s funeral. Before leaving the house for the last time, without knowing what she’s looking for, she opens a dresser drawer in her mother’s room. Towards the very back of the drawer she discovers a packet of old letters tied up with a pink ribbon. In these letters she meets the man she has forever longed to know and love, the man her mother rarely spoke of during all the years of her childhood. In these letters she meets her father, Jack Sweeney, for the first time.
As Always, Jack is in part the bittersweet story of a daughter’s search for her father, an account of her struggle to unlock the mystery of his disappearance on the eve of her birth. Preserved in this story, however, is another, more universal one: the sweet and classic tale of true love in a time of war.
About the Author
Emma Sweeney is a literary agent who writes frequently about gardening. A member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives and the Women’s Media Group, she divides her time between New York City and upstate New York.
Take a Book Blog Tour of As Always Jack:
The Book Garden [July 3, 2012]
I Read. Do You? [July 4, 2012]
missris [July 9, 2012]
Write Meg [July 10, 2012]
Reviews from the Heart [July 11, 2012]
Savvy Verse & Wit [July 12, 2012]
Lakeside Musing [July 16, 2012]
Diary of an Eccentric [July 17, 2012]
Book Reviews by Molly [July 19, 2012]
Booktalk & More [July 20, 2012]
The Written World [July 23, 2012]
Lesa’s Book Critiques [July 24, 2012]
Seaside Book Nook [July 26, 2012]
Amused By Books [July 27, 2012]
The Book Bag [July 31, 2012]
Reading to Know [August 1, 2012]
Walking With Nora [August 1, 2012]
“A poignant reminder of the power of a letter—in this case bringing to life for a daughter the father she never knew, and allowing her to experience firsthand the love out of which she was conceived. As Always, Jack is a little gem.”
—Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, author of A Woman of Independent Means
“It will make you cry—sudden, hot, brief tears. A love story with a sad ending, and then a new chapter with a little girl. . . . that’s classic material.”
—Jesse Kornbluth, HeadButler.com
“These letters are poignant, sweet, caring and very humorous . . . a delightful little book, that can be devoured in a short time, but time well spent. It brings a glow to the heart and a sense of well-being.”
—Mary Ann Smyth, BookLoons.com
“If you like romance or a good old-fashioned love story, this book is for you.”
“These love letters are a treasure. A deeply moving and powerful discovery for the author and the readers she shares them with.”
— Barbara Fielding, Reviewers-Choice.com
“This is a beautiful, sweet, and fun biography about the author’s father whom she never got to meet.”
—Speaking Volumes, the book review blog of the Cherry Hill Public Library
“Romance at its finest! This is a book that will touch your soul. As Always, Jack opens the door to the heart for any reader with its mix of gentle humor and realization of falling in love.”
— Anne K. Edwards, Blether.com
“Emma takes us on the journey of discovering her father, and pays a beautiful tribute to him in the process.”
“As Always, Jack is a wildly romantic tale made even more sentimental because it is the true story of love from start to finish.”
—Melissa Brown, RoadtoRomance.ca
“With more than 1.5 million members of the US Armed Forces, it has a ready audience alert to the perils of separation, along with many more sympathetic to that predicament.”
“It combines the best . . . type of reading: biography, autobiography, and in a way, time travel.”
“[These are] squadrons of warm and zestful letters [from Jack Sweeney] to his beloved . . . a packet of letters wrapped with a pink ribbon; a pink ribbon which you, reader, are about to untie.”
—Andrew Carroll, author of the New York Times bestseller War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars
“My search for my father’s secret past began when I found some old boxes of his. When I learned Emma Sweeney’s story As Always, Jack included a box of secrets about the father that little Emma never met, I opened the book. What I read there opened my heart.”
—James Bradley, author of the New York Times bestseller Flags of Our Fathers
From Part One
When I was about ten years old I was nosing around in some boxes in the basement of my family’s house in Coronado, California, when I discovered a large manila envelope marked “Navy Department, Bureau of Naval Personnel: Official Business.” Inside I found a photograph of my father, a certificate attesting to his death during active service to his country, and a letter. I had never seen a picture of my father before.
I felt as though I were looking in a mirror. Here were the same deeply set eyes as my own, and dark, wide eyebrows. My mother’s own Scandinavian looks—blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin—were more evident in my older brothers. Most important to me, however, was the typed letter, written days before his plane went down and addressed to my mother. I read the letter several times, looking for some clue in it that he knew about me. Did he know I existed?
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. Every so often I would read the letter and look at his photograph. One night I fell asleep before putting it away and only remembered it when I was at school. I knew my mother would find it and I worried she would take it away. When I came home the photograph was missing. I found it in the top drawer of my dresser, facedown.
I never left it out again.
Though I never knew my father, as a child I did know a few things about him. I knew that he had been a navy pilot and that he and my mother had met in the days just following the end of the Second World War. Before I was born, he and my mother and my four brothers had lived in Bermuda. At the time his plane went down, they had been married for ten years. Growing up, I was told that because no trace of his plane was ever found, he and his flight crew had disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle.
Finally, I knew that my mother was pregnant with me when he died. I never came out and directly asked my mother if my father had known she was pregnant. What if he hadn’t? So this was the sum of what I knew and didn’t know. I spent much of my childhood wanting to know more.
From Part Two
Sunday, Jan. 13
I didn’t intend to run away without leaving you a little collateral with which to take care of my many financial problems which I left in your hands, but when I told you goodbye I guess my head was in the clouds so far that I couldn’t give a thought to such earthly things as money. So I’m enclosing 30 skins (20 for the pictures, 2 or 3 for the laundry, and the rest for the Railway Express Co. unless you shipped the stuff collect, which is what I meant to tell you to do). If this isn’t enough for the Ry. Exp., let me know. It’s really sweet of you to take care of all my loose ends for me—as a matter of fact, I’ve been thinking the matter over and have come to the conclusion that meeting you was the luckiest break I’ve ever had in my somewhat lucky life.
This is our
(I just interrupted this literary effort to get into a small game of poker, in which I won $39.85—sorry!)
This is our fourth day on the high seas, but it’s the first letter I’ve gotten around to. Most of my time has been spent at the Acey-Ducey board with my friend Gill, who leads me 19 games to 14. (One dollar per game.) He won’t play me any more gin rummy since I won 85 cents off him in an hour the first day.
We’re due at Pearl Harbor Wednesday morning. How long I’ll be there is anybody’s guess. Although I haven’t written any letters before today, don’t think I haven’t had you on my mind ever since I saw you. I’ve thought of practically nothing else. (Maybe that’s why Gill is beating me at Acey-Ducey.) It seems incredible to me that I could miss anyone so much that I’ve known for a couple of weeks, but I do. That last night was completely perfect. It already seems like a dream, and I’m sure I’ll go over it again in my mind lots of times in the months to come. Now how about that letter? ’Sgo!
With much love,
and also a little fond affection,
Monday, Jan. 28
I don’t understand why I’m writing you so often. I’m generally a pretty bad correspondent, and here I am writing you for about the fortieth time. Even if you only answer half of ’em, I’ll still be getting more mail than usual.
I had a dream about you last night. You were beating a filet mignon to death with a golf club. I think it was a 7-iron. I didn’t count how many strokes you took but I remember thinking you were way over par for the course. (Meat course, of course.) I’ve had better dreams of you than that one.
I saw a mess of LCT’s anchored in a little bay yesterday and there was a sign pointing that way that said “To Elsie Teeville.” Darned clever, these amphibious boys. By the way, how’s Ed, the ace of the base? You don’t know, I hope.
I’m getting to be a pretty sharp bridge player.Today I even won playing with Gillock, who is just learning.
Tomorrow I’m off to Shanghai. Keep your eye on the funnies, because I’m liable to show up in Terry and the Pirates any day now.
P.S. You can send me those pictures any time now.
The natives here are begging for them. I can get a
glass of saki for 6 pictures.