An NPR Best Book of the Year
Winner of the CLMP Firecracker Award in Creative Nonfiction

The Quickening is a book of hope.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Under a White Sky

An astonishing, vital work about Antarctica, climate change, and community.

In 2019, fifty-seven scientists and crew set out onboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer. Their destination: the ominous Thwaites Glacier at Antarctica’s western edge. Their goal: to learn as much as possible about this mysterious place, never before visited by humans. And with them is author Elizabeth Rush, who seeks, among other things, the elusive voice of the ice.

Rush shares her story of a groundbreaking voyage punctuated by both the sublime—the tangible consequences of our melting icecaps; the staggering waves of the Drake Passage; the torqued, unfamiliar contours of Thwaites—and the everyday moments of living and working in community. A ping-pong tournament at sea. Long hours in the lab. All the effort that goes into caring for the human and more-than-human worlds. Along the way, Rush takes readers on a personal journey around a more intimate question: What does it mean to create and celebrate life in a time of radical planetary change?

What emerges is a new kind of Antarctica story, one preoccupied not with flag planting and heroism but with the collective and challenging work of imagining a better future. With understanding the language of a continent where humans have only been present for two centuries. With the contributions and concerns of women, who were largely excluded from voyages until the last few decades, and of crew members of color, whose labor has often gone unrecognized. Urgent, brave, and vulnerable, The Quickening is an absorbing account of hope from one of our most celebrated and treasured contemporary authors.