Full Title & Author:
When You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay On The Appalachian Trail
Written by D. Dauphinee
How I Came Across This Book:
I had previously heard that this book was in the works and of course, had heard about the tragedy of Geraldine “Inchworm” Largay having myself hiked the Appalachian Trail and specifically stayed at the shelter Largay was last photographed at. I had forgotten about the book until an email came in from the Appalachian Trail Association (ATC) advertising it for sale. By the time I asked my good trail dad Roub about it, he had already read it and sent it out my way.
My first thoughts going into the book were only my preconceived notions on what had happened to Largay. Ultimately I had a lot of questions. I thought back to my night at Poplar Ridge Shelter in Maine discussing Largay with Darwin and a few other hikers. I remembered hearing she had wandered off the trail looking for water. This didn’t make sense at the time seeing the water source directly in front of the shelter. I also remember discussing the rumor that she had gotten lost when wandering off-the trail to relieve herself. I couldn’t understand at the time how this could happen either, seeing that the woods were so dense in the area. I also couldn’t imagine getting too far off-trail due to the complexity of navigating through the area without a pack on let alone with one on as it was rumored Largay had done.
Long story short, I had a lot of questions and misinformation on what exactly happened to Largay. Even after reading this book, there are still a lot of questions that will never have answers but I do feel that I have a better understanding of what most likely happened and why.
This book was one of those that was a little hard to read but in a good way. Even if your not familiar with the Largay’s disappearance, you know the book doesn’t end exactly well by the title alone. That’s why I found it a little hard to read. You know the outcome and it hurts to learn a more personal perspective of Largay and of those parties involved in her search when no matter the efforts, she isn’t found alive.
If you are looking for the gory details of Largary’s last days and her journal entries, you’re going to be disappointed. The author D. Dauphinee presents Largary’s plight in a very tasteful way. He presents her story factually and that although tragic, leaves the reader room to learn and question their own preparedness when entering the woods for any reason. Dauphinee is good at not pointing fingers of blame at one individual or agency but does discuss the finger-pointing that did occur during the search and other conspiracy theories surrounding Largay’s disappearance.
Dauphinee having experience on a Search and Rescue Team does not waste time on what he would or would have not done differently either. Instead, he focuses the book on Largay; who she was, the people that felt deeply connected to her, and those who never met her but spent hours, days, months, and years looking for her.
The interviews and information Dauphinee presents on those who were involved with Largay’s search or that were questioned for further information regarding her personally provides an almost three-sixty perspective on the entire situation. Although specific information on Largay’s personal thoughts and actions can only be pieced together, Dauphinee presents a very logical and relatable scenario for what Largay was most likely going through.
I found this book to be incredibly well put together. I have also been left questioning how prepared beyond just my gear, that I truly am when I enter the wilderness. Largay was lost and found before I ever hiked the AT, but I knew about her before, and I feel like I have a better understanding of her now. The sense of knowledge or even arrogance I felt before reading When You Find My Body, makes me feel ashamed.
The research and studies Dauphinee provides through the books puts the reader’s arrogance into check. It can be easy to judge Largay at first and point out all the things that you the reader would have done differently, but Dauphinee with experience backed up with studies and real-life examples, shows why a lost person may act a certain way, even perhaps run away from their would-be rescuers. This overall will make the reader really question themselves.
After reading, I recognize I need further education on survival skills. I do however feel I have a better understanding of search and rescue. My perception of such operations was limited, however, now having read Dauphinee’s book I feel like I have a better grasp at the stress, planning, organization, dedication, and heartache that comes with involvement on a search and rescue team that I had never thought of before.
Overall, this book is a recommended read. Dauphinee presents Largary’s story in a way that is unaccusing and respectful, allowing the reader to learn, which I feel is exactly what Largary would have wanted. Regardless of your experience in backpacking or hiking, I think anyone would benefit from reading When You Find My Body.
Don’t forget to check out your local library too!
A Few Other Book Reviews I’ve Done:
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