July 11, Pia de Jong will release her brand new book ‘Saving Charlotte: A Mother and the Power of Intuition’ with W.W. Norton & Company. On July 18, 6:30 pm, she will discuss the book with William P. Kelly, The New York Public Library’s Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Research Libraries. This program is FREE, register here.
In her memoir, ‘Saving Charlotte: A Mother and the Power of Intuition’ best-selling novelist Pia de Jong chronicles the unspeakable reality of grappling with the illness of her newborn daughter.
When Pia’s first daughter, Charlotte, is born, it’s immediately clear that something is wrong; she is covered in blue spots that turn out to be tumors. Charlotte is diagnosed with congenital myeloid leukemia, and the doctors tell Pia and her husband, Robbert, to prepare for the worst—and soon. They find themselves in a waking nightmare: receiving visitors who somehow find a way to make them feel worse, getting countless recommendations for quack remedies, trying to find the words to prepare Charlotte’s brothers for her death, shopping for a grave to hold a baby.
There is scant information on how congenital myeloid leukemia works in infants, and Pia and Robbert elect not to pursue chemotherapy. Instead, they watch and wait, holding every microsecond of Charlotte’s life close to them. In Pia’s case, she also registers and records her own sensory, cognitive, and spiritual state with exquisite precision. The borders between childhood and adulthood, past and present, waking and dreaming, and life and death begin to blur, and as the drama of Charlotte’s illness and—thankfully—recovery unfold, the reader experiences Pia’s own suffering and ultimate self-discovery through unconditional love.
Despite the looming threat of Charlotte’s disease, there is also considerable lightness throughout ‘Saving Charlotte’. Pia portrays the family’s Amsterdam neighborhood and their seventeenth-century canal house, which has as strong a personality as any of its residents, in colorful, almost magical language. The family lives next door to a brothel, and one of the prostitutes within becomes a cherished friend—indeed, almost another daughter—who has a deep attachment to the baby Charlotte. The vivid, sage, sometimes peculiar neighbors and friends who sustain Pia in her surreal daily routine seem to spring from a modern-day folktale.
Throughout it all, Pia, Robbert, their sons—and little Charlotte—radiate sheer strength and a resilience that will inspire and move readers, who will identify with the power of this singularly human experience.
Pia de Jong is a best-selling novelist and a regular contributor to the Washington Post. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband, Robbert Dijkgraaf, director of the Institute for Advanced Study, and their three children, including Charlotte.