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Books About Letters: "As Always, Jack: A Wartime Love Story"

This June we're all about the nonfiction here at Flea Market Love Letters as we crack into our "Books About Letters" installment: "As Always, Jack: A Wartime Love Story". If you love diving into the real stories behind some of the letter writers we've featured here in the archive, you're going to love this memoir which introduces a daughter to a father she never met, made up of real love letters.

In this true story we meet Jack Sweeney, father of the author Emma. Emma's parents, Jack and Bebe, were 1940s sweethearts. After their marriage in 1946, Jack and Bebe began to build a family together. When a decade later, Jack's airplane went missing at sea during a routine flight, Bebe was pregnant with Emma. For years, the family rarely if never spoke of Jack leaving Emma to wonder if her father she never met even knew she existed before his early death. While clearing out her mother's belongings after Bebe's death in 1985, Emma discovered the thing all those in complicated families long for: letters.

Emma writes, for context:

"They [Jack and Bebe] had known each other for only eleven days when he, then a lieutenant in the United States Navy, left with his flight squadron to report to Hawaii as part of the military efforts to stabilize the pacific after World War II. Over a period of seven months, he wrote the forty-five letters I found in her drawer."

Maybe, just maybe, Emma wondered, these letters -- written from her father to her mother during his WWII service, prior to their marriage -- held the answers to the mysteries she'd long consigned to unanswerable.

Normally at this point we'd ask: Is this a book about letters? Absolutely! This is almost the exception to asking that every month -- as Emma's book is the printing of her father's original letters.

In "As Always, Jack: A Wartime Love Story" readers meet young Jack, a wannabe sports writer who signed up for the Navy in 1939. With dreams of owning a small town newspaper and marrying his sweetheart, Jack set out to set the world on fire. It's clear in his writing that Jack had talent, one sadly lost before its time but rediscovered and honored at length by Emma, the daughter he never met. It's amazing what letters can hold for those close to the family, and for readers much removed.

We're very happy to include this wonderful monument to the letter in our recommendations for must-read books about letters.

Get in Touch.

Do you have a book in mind about letters you think I should read and review for "Books About Letters"? Let me know! Send me an email at

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