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photo by Mariel Kolmschot

Pia de Jong is a prize-winning literary novelist and newspaper columnist who moved to the U.S. from Amsterdam in 2012. Her memoir, Saving Charlotte: A Mother and the Power of Intuition, is her first book in English.

Saving Charlotte: A Mother and the Power of Intuition

Best-selling author Pia de Jong’s vivid memoir about her newborn daughter’s battle with leukemia and the startling decision that led to her recovery.

Video: Pia de Jong talks about the amazing story behind “Saving Charlotte”

When her newborn daughter Charlotte is diagnosed with a rare and deadly leukemia, Pia and her husband Robbert make a momentous decision: they reject potentially devastating chemotherapy and instead choose to “wait for what will come.” As the following year unfolds, Pia enters a disorienting world of doctors, medical procedures, and a colorful cast of neighbors and protectors in her native Amsterdam. Her seventeenth-century canal house becomes her inner sanctum, a private “cocoon” where she sweeps away distractions in order to give Charlotte the unfiltered love and strength she needs. Pia’s instinctive decision, now known as “watchful waiting,” has become another viable medical option in many cases like Charlotte’s.

This deeply felt memoir reveals the galvanizing impact one child can have on a family, a neighborhood, and a worldwide medical community. Vivid and immersive, Saving Charlotte is also a portrait of one woman’s brave voyage of love, of hope, and, in its inspiring climax, of self-discovery.

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Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

The trumpets sound a fanfare, and I walk with 1,300 invited guests into the courtyard of the City Hall of Stockholm, which has been transformed into a dining room. Students wearing sailor hats and blue-yellow sashes lead us to festive tables that stretch from wall to wall. The men look chic in their white ties, patent leather shoes, and honor medals. The ladies flourish their evening dresses and sparkling jewels. The walls are decorated with carnations, specially flown in from Italy, the corridors are lined with crystals, and the ceiling has been transformed into a shimmering replica of the Northern Lights.

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Pia de Jong knows well the love of a mother for her child. She and her husband, Robert, lived through the nightmareof almost losing their precious daughter, Charlotte. Their journey is the subject of the book, Saving Charlotte: A Mother and the Power of Intuition.

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Novelist Pia de Jong talks about her new book Saving Charlotte: A Mother and the Power of Intuition. She tells the story of her daughter, Charlotte, who was diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of leukemia, often treated with chemotherapy. Pia and her husband decide instead to take Charlotte home and care for her there.

This segment is guest hosted by Mary Harris.

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The Dutch Chamber Choir

I had forgotten how cold New York can be. The bitter wind cuts into my face and slices through my thin coat and sweater. A father tugs a woolen hat with a fur pom pom tightly over the ears of a baby snuggled in the sling against his chest. A teenage girl in a leotard hops from one leg to another while waiting for the traffic light to change.

I am on my way to the atrium of the New York Ethical Culture Society to hear Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival performance of 150 Psalms. It is a week of choral concerts of only psalms. Tonight the Dutch Chamber Choir will perform 12 lamentations.

Inside, the room is as warm and toasty as a church. Pews are in a semicircle, and above our heads floats a chandelier that throws shadows along the walls. As I sit down, I nod to the older man next to me. He does not seem to notice me. Strikingly, many people sit alone, apart from one another. This is a completely different atmosphere from the opera, just a few doors away in Lincoln Center, where people come to be seen as well as to watch.

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Our daughter celebrated her seventeen birthday this year by getting her driving license. This was not left to chance. She made the appointment for her test months in advance, at 8 a.m. sharp. The exam itself was an afterthought — a five-minute spin in a parking lot, parallel parking, turn into the highway, and finish. Soon she was home, holding her glittering license, a free ticket to a life of freedom.

“I’m going out for a little bit,” she promptly announced. She stepped into the car, pulled down her mirrored sunglasses, opened the windows, tuned up the radio, and disappeared into the wide, wide world.