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Guelph author goes virtual with launch of her book about chasing lemurs

Keriann McGoogan's book Chasing Lemurs: My Journey into the Heart of Madagascar will launch online April 23

It isn’t the first time Guelph author, Keriann McGoogan has had to change plans and respond to the unexpected. 

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, most in-person scheduled book events in promotion of her memoir, Chasing Lemurs: My Journey into the Heart of Madagascar, have been cancelled or postponed.

One in-person event at The Bookshelf in Guelph, however, will still go ahead this month, virtually. 

“Honestly, the fact that my book is being released during this global crisis, is fitting in a bizarre way,” McGoogan said.

 “The book is about my first trip to Madagascar, which went off the rails. That trip taught me resilience and I feel like I’m tapping into that lesson right now.”

As a 25-year-old PhD student studying biological anthropology at the University of Toronto, McGoogan travelled to Madagascar in 2006 to study lemurs in their natural habitat and to set up a permanent field site.

“That trip was part of a pilot PhD project for three months originally and then I was going to go back for 14 months,” McGoogan said. 

But even with careful planning, McGoogan soon found herself facing many unexpected challenges including food poisoning, hiking long backcountry roads, malaria and even an emergency evacuation. 

“I had anticipated to fly in with my field supervisor. We could only drive up to a certain point, so we had to hike the rest of the way and we had to hire porters to help carry luggage. It took 10 days instead of three. It was so difficult to find people to help because we had to walk through sand and rivers,” McGoogan said. 

“Because of the delays, my field supervisor had to leave. There was only one other student with me who could speak English. He ended up with malaria and he also had to leave. It was my first time there, so it was really daunting.”

McGoogan was once told that “there is almost no research project that survives the field." Those words have stayed with her since that trip where she quickly had to learn about resilience and how to adapt to challenging circumstances.

“And after writing the book, all of the planned promotional events started to unfold when the pandemic hit,” McGoogan says. 

“I thought about what I faced on that trip to Madagascar and how I learned to be flexible and adapt and I quickly learned about the differences between what you plan and what is reality. Things change and I really learned that there.”

“It took awhile to write about it because it really did go off the rails, but I did keep a journal and I just put it away on a shelf.,” she said. 

McGoogan did revisit Madagascar after that first challenging adventure.

“I don’t think I could have written the book back then. I felt I needed that life experience and I needed to learn more about the people and the culture. I did take a while, but I think I needed that time.”

Today, McGoogan works at the University of Guelph as a research and communications officer at the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and she says she really had to wait a while before she was ready to write her memoir. 

And despite the pandemic, McGoogan thought she would tackle yet another challenge of promoting her memoir.  

“I had an in-person event already planned at the Bookshelf and they were still keen. After awhile things just evolved and my event was changed to a Facebook live event,” McGoogan says. 

The virtual event will be held on April 23 at 7:30 pm. 

Everyone is welcome to learn more about McGoogan’s fascinating experiences in Madagascar. 

“Lemurs, what a beautiful sight,” McGoogan says. “They are only found in Madagascar and there are over 111 species. There’s a mouse lemur which can fit into a teacup and there’s also another that looks like a Muppet and jumps through the forest making trumpet calls. Just the sheer diversity of lemurs, it’s just incredible.”

McGoogan will include in the event, a slideshow talk, with a question and answer period afterwards.  

“I’m so excited to share this. It’s years of your life so it’s very special to have others learn about it,” McGoogan said. 

“I hope I can bring something exciting for people to think about while they are staying home right now. I hope I can bring them a new adventure.”

For those interested in the virtual book event, they can logon to to attend. 

Those participating in the event can order Chasing Lemurs from The Bookshelf which also offers same-day delivery to Guelph customers.