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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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Latest Articles, Columns, Short Stories

Hollow Tree Library Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Marquand Park is a beautiful 19th-century jewel that’s around the corner from me. When I walk into the park with my dog, I am always greeted by a cheerful buzz of activity. Small children bake pies in the sandbox, bigger kids twirl in feverish circles on their tricycles. When it starts to drizzle, everyone quickly gathers their things and vanishes. As the park falls empty and silent, I tug up the collar of my raincoat and walk my dog through the greensward on Magnolia Hill.

Raising a Foodie

US 1 Newspaper, August 8, 2018

Foodies Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Raising a Foodie

US 1 Newspaper, August 8, 2018

The first time our elder son seemed to understand food was at a McDonald’s. During a vacation, we had picked up a hamburger for him. He approached it with caution. First, he began to carefully dismantle it. He removed the pieces of onion, the ketchup, and the slice of pickle, then the wilted lettuce and the meat. The result was a soggy piece of bread with a slice of tomato that must have turned red from embarrassment. Thus was born the delicious “tomato sandwich,” still a fixture on our family menus.

Third Semester Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

In American colleges, the academic year has a secret third half. You know about the first two — the fall semester, then the spring semester, both crowded with books and lectures. But then, here comes a surprise: the third half of the school year, the one that arrives on tip-toe in early May and for the next four months suddenly leaves students as abandoned as if on a darkling plain.

The reason is that colleges want to use dorm rooms for their summer programs. So undergraduates are expelled from campus and become academic refugees. They gather everything they can carry and fly all over the world to their original breeding grounds, where they will wait like migratory birds to fly back to their college rooms in September.

Rfk Train Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Fifty years ago, Rich Rein, a tall, slender man who is now 71, was the editor of the Daily Princetonian student newspaper. On June 6, 1968, the day after the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, he received a call from the Kennedy campaign office. Would he like to attend the funeral and ride on the train that would carry Bobby’s body from New York to Washington for burial? The newly widowed Ethel Kennedy had thought that college students should be among the journalists to report on the event. And so Rein ended up on one of the most extraordinary train journeys in history.

Fireflies Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

It’s finally summer in Princeton. We had to wait until late spring to get warm, but now the roses are blooming and the air is dripping with fragrant honeysuckle. The town is slowly settling into the lazy hazy days of summer. My daughter prepares to say goodbye to her classmates who will be traveling all over the world. She already misses her brothers, who flew the coop last year. “I thought that we would always be together as a family,” she says, sitting by herself at the kitchen table. Now she has to make do with us, her parents, who give her just a bit too much attention.

Screen Shot 2018 05 25 At 9 53 45 Am

This is an amazing and true story and a must-read, no matter where you are in your life.

A Dutch couple has its third child, a much-adored daughter, but it quickly becomes apparent there is something wrong with her.

The doctors do tests, knowing what they will find.

The baby has ‘congenital myeloid leukaemia’, a serious condition she was born with.

Her parents are given the option of hospitalisation for her with chemotherapy treatment, but there is no guarantee of a cure attached to it.

In fact, the opposite is more likely.

Almost without consultation, the parents decide to take her home, forgoing treatment the option.

Family and friends are not necessarily in agreement, but Pia de Jong and her husband have decided.

They will look after her and wait to see what happens. They can only hope with love and care from those around her Charlotte will fight the dread disease and go into remission by herself, without the alarming chemotherapy treatment.

Although the book is relatively short, we are given a detailed description of this family’s life; the two barely older brothers, the parents, and the way they live with and handle this truly heart-wrenching situation, in an old and busy part of Amsterdam.

Parents, friends and neighbours all contribute to this story and its resolution.

de Jong paints a great picture of inner Amsterdam, with its canals, its alleyways, its tall, narrow old houses, and its amazing diversity of residents, many of whom are a part of Charlotte’s story.

The family eventually moves to the United States.

When the author goes back to visit her old neighbourhood it has irrevocably changed, but her memories remain.

Wonderfully written, this is a beautiful book. Ask your library.

—Lee Stephenson