Originally published in 2002, Emma Sweeney’s As Always, Jack was reprinted this year. It’s a poignant, touching, sometimes humorous collection of love letters. And, it’s poignant because Emma Sweeney’s pilot father wrote them while he was courting her mother. Emma’s father, Jack, died while her mother was expecting her. These letters were the closest Emma ever came to hearing her father’s voice.
Emma Sweeney’s parents knew each other for only eleven days before he left with his flight squadron, headed for China in 1946. Over the course of seven months, he wrote Beebe forty-five letters filled with humor and love. He courted her in those letters, and married her three weeks after he returned home.They had four sons, and Beebe was pregnant when Jack’s plane went down in the Bermuda Triangle, disappearing there on Nov. 9, 1956.
Emma never saw a picture of her father until she was ten. Her mother remarried, and never really talked to her about Jack until Emma was in her twenties. She left her a packet of letters, these letters, when she died. A year later, Emma read them, looking to learn who her father was.
There really aren’t any spoilers in the above description. Emma Sweeney wrote most of that information at the beginning of As Always, Jack. As funny as some of the letters are, as romantic as they are, it’s sad to know that Emma never knew him, and searched for answers for years. Who was her father? What was he like? Did he even know he was going to be a father again? As Always, Jack is a small book, filled with history, love, and the answers for one fatherless child. Jack and Beebe Sweeney’s story is a beautiful love story representing a moment in U.S. history.
As Always, Jack by Emma Sweeney. Axios. 2012. ISBN 9781604190489 (hardcover), 179p.