As Always, Jack
by Emma Sweeney
Axios Press, June 2012
Near the end of WWII, a Navy pilot meets and falls in love with a beautiful California girl. They have a brief two weeks together before he is shipped off to the South Pacific. This is an engaging collection of his letters, compiled by the daughter he never got to meet. Full of poignant detail—a chronicle of the passions and fears of wartime—the book is the ultimate love story of America's “greatest generation.”
I love correspondence, from writing and receiving letters to reading epistolary novels, so accepting As Alway, Jack for review was a no-brainer. This book, however, is not a novel. It represents one woman's opportunity to meet the father she never knew through his letters to her mother written shortly after the two first met.
We read of Jack's falling in love, gradually discover his sense of humor, and even learn of his growing uncertainty as the reunion with Beebe nears. He share bits about his life in the South Pacific and brings the time/place alive for the reader.
This beautiful edition was a quick read and very touching, but I wish Beebe's letters had been included, too.
A few favorite passages:
I'm certainly glad I figured out that I was in love with you. It explains a lot of queer things that have been puzzling me - for instance, why I write you so many letters, why I think about you most of the day and dream about you most of the night, and why I'm so eager to get back to the states. With your female intuition (which doesn't work so good on horses) you probably knew it all along, though. I know I'll never forget anything about those twelve days between Dec. 29 and Jan. 9... (page 39)
"... The only picture I have of you is in my memory, but I don't think it'll wear off. Seriously, Cotton, I miss you more all the time. I thought possibly when I first left you, way back there in January, that the reason I thought of nothing but you was that it was the most recent happening in my life; but the longer I'm away, the better perspective I seem to get and the more I realize that you're the most wonderful girl I've known." (page 70)
"Which brings up a little point I should like to discuss briefly with you, Beebe. You know we really only knew each other for two weeks, although I'm sure we came to know each other better in those two weeks than any other couples could. It's been five months since those two weeks came off, and all you've had in that time were my picture (and pictures like that are nearly always flattering) and my letters, in which I also try to flatter myself. In these five months you're bound to have gradually exaggerated my good features in your mind and more or less forgotten the bad ones (honest, I do have one or two bad ones - but there I go again). Probably you realize all this, honey, as I've suspected from the first you are not such a girl as would overlook such commonsense thing. The reason I'm being so serious about it is that just in case you do feel some sense of disappointment when the highly-advertised Sweeney steps off his train (or plane), just be sure to remember that the main thing is what we'relike inside and what we feel about things, etc. I'm sure you know what I'm trying to get across even if I'm not expressing it too clearly." (page 139-140)My rating:
The publisher has provided an additional copy of As Always, Jack for one of my readers (sorry, US and Canada only). If you would like to be entered in the giveaway, please let me know in your comment. I will draw a winner on Monday July 23.
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.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending me a review copy. The complete tour schedule for As Always, Jack is here.