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Author Talks: Saving Charlotte: Pia de Jong in conversation with William P. Kelly


July 18, 2017
For all ages

In her new memoir, Saving Charlotte, best-selling novelist Pia de Jong chronicles the unspeakable reality of grappling with the illness of her newborn daughter. She will discuss the book with William P. Kelly, The New York Public Library’s Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Research Libraries.


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

Saving Charlotte by Pia de JongWhen her first daughter, Charlotte, was born, it was immediately clear that something was wrong—she was covered in blue spots that turned out to be tumors. Charlotte was diagnosed with congenital myeloid leukemia, and the doctors told Pia and her husband, Robbert, to prepare for the worst—and soon. The family made a momentous decision: to reject potentially devastating chemotherapy and instead choose to “wait for what will come.” In the intervening year, the family found themselves in a waking nightmare: receiving visitors who somehow found 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.

In this deeply felt memoir, de Jong 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. 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.

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