‘Jersey Brothers,’ a nonfiction cliffhanger, at the Morristown book fest

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Three brothers with deep roots in Morris County attend the Naval Academy and serve in World War II.  One “disappears” almost immediately.  The other two press on. One serves on the USS Enterprise in the Pacific Theater.  The other is privy to all military secrets while serving at the White House.

Sally Mott Freeman, right, author of ‘The Jersey Brothers,’ and friend Julia Carey of Madison at the Morristown Festival of Books, Oct. 13, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Meanwhile, at home, the boys’ mother Helen proves herself a force to be reckoned with through letters to major figures in command, seeking the return of her lost boy.

Jersey Brothers is the true story of the family of Sally Mott Freeman, daughter of middle brother Bill Mott, and niece of Benny and Bertram. 

Sally was among 40 authors who spoke over the weekend at the fourth annual Morristown Festival of Books.

A family argument on the porch, overheard by a young, impressionable Sally, lead her to research the family secret. 

Who was to blame for what happened to Bertram — whatever that was?  After 10 years Sally’s research had yielded answers to both mysteries.  It wasn’t what the family had expected.

The story, written dispassionately in the form of a novel, illuminates both the disturbing consequences of inter-service rivalry (Army vs. Navy) and of Army General Douglas MacArthur’s megalomania.

Saturday’s talk, moderated by Ken Schlager, touched upon the damage wrought on families by thoughtless empire-builders and their sycophantic staffs. 

The event may help Sally spread the Jersey Brothers saga beyond the Garden State.

One of the listeners in the audience at St. Peter’s traveled from Vinson Hall, a community originally established by the Navy Officers’ Wives’ Club of Washington, D.C. as a retirement home for widows. Sally lives nearby in Bethesda, MD, so perhaps she’ll get another invitation to promote the book.

 

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