The Quickening: Creation and Community at the Ends of the Earth by Elizabeth Rush (8/15/23)
The Quickening: Creation and Community at the Ends of the Earth by Elizabeth Rush (8/15/23)
An astonishing, vital book about Antarctica, climate change, and motherhood from the author of Rising, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction.
In 2019, fifty-seven scientists and crew set out onboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer. Their destination: Thwaites Glacier. Their goal: to learn as much as possible about this mysterious place, never before visited by humans, and believed to be both rapidly deteriorating and capable of making a catastrophic impact on global sea-level rise.
In The Quickening, Elizabeth Rush documents their voyage, offering the sublime—seeing an iceberg for the first time; the staggering waves of the Drake Passage; the torqued, unfamiliar contours of Thwaites—alongside the workaday moments of this groundbreaking expedition. A ping-pong tournament at sea. Long hours in the lab. All the effort that goes into caring for and protecting human life in a place that is inhospitable to it. Along the way, she takes readers on a personal journey around a more intimate question: What does it mean to bring a child into the world at this time of radical change?
What emerges is a new kind of Antarctica story, one preoccupied not with flag planting 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. The Quickening teems with their voices—with the colorful stories and personalities of Rush’s shipmates—in a thrilling chorus.
Urgent and brave, absorbing and vulnerable, The Quickening is another essential book from Elizabeth Rush.
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Praise for The Quickening
“The Quickening, Elizabeth Rush’s new work of nonfiction, reframes the end of the world—geographical and climatological. [. . .] Alongside recitations of the science as well as meditations of a much more personal nature, the intrepid reader is treated to prose that lifts Rush’s work far above standard journalism.”—Lorraine Berry, Los Angeles Times
“Elizabeth Rush's The Quickening is one part memoir, one part reporting from the edge—think Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction—a book that feels as though it was written from the brink. In this case the extreme scenario is literal: Rush, a journalist, joins a crew of scientists aboard a ship headed for a glacier in Antarctica that is, like much of the poles, rapidly disappearing. The book brings the environmental crisis into a personal sphere, asking what it means to have a child in the face of such catastrophic change. [. . .] Rush writes with clarity and precision, giving a visceral sense of everything from the gear required to traverse an arctic landscape to the interior landscape of a woman facing change both global and immediate.”—Vogue, “Most Anticipated Books of 2023”
“In The Quickening, Elizabeth Rush takes readers to the precipice of the climate crisis. Aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer, an American icebreaker, Rush and a crew of scientists, journalists, and support staff set bow and stern in front of Thwaites Glacier for the first time in history [. . .] The Quickening is a poignant, necessary addition to the body of Antarctic literature, one that centers—without glorifying—motherhood, uncertainty, community, vulnerability, and beauty in a rapidly melting world.”—Science
“Elizabeth Rush takes readers along as she documents the 2019 Thwaites Glacier expedition in Antarctica. The voyage had 57 scientists, researchers and recorders onboard to document the groundbreaking glacier, which has never been visited by humans. [. . .] Rush ties her findings of the Thwaites Glacier expedition to raising kids and living in a quickly changing world.”—WBUR, “8 Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List”
“The fascinating inside story of climate science at the edge of Antarctica [. . .] In this follow-up to Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, Rush shows us how data collection happens, capturing the intriguing details of climate science in the field [. . .] The scientists are not the only heroes of Rush’s book, which emphasizes above all the collaborative and interdependent nature of such voyages, where so much depends on the staff and crew. In addition to her own poetic voice, the author incorporates the voices of everyone on the ship, highlighting women and racial and ethnic minorities, who have been overlooked in the canon of Antarctic literature.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Rush’s reporting is top-notch, and her personal reflections make this an unusually intimate account of climate change. Readers will find plenty to ponder.”—Publishers Weekly
"An astonishing, vital book about Antarctica, climate change, and motherhood from the author of Rising, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction."—Next Big Idea Club
"In 2019, a group of scientists set out for Thwaites Glacier, which has the ominous nickname of Doomsday Glacier, in the Antarctic. It had never been visited before by humans, and the goal was to gather as much information as possible. The glacier itself is suspected to be deteriorating, which could have catastrophic effects on sea levels.Rush not only documents the scientific journey and gives voice to various crew members, but also explores what it means to bring a new life into the world, as she starts to contemplate motherhood in the time of climate change."—Book Riot
“The Quickening took me on an immersive journey through both exterior and interior landscapes, deftly crossing the boundaries between the frigid Antarctic and the warm heart. Elizabeth Rush’s writing is multilayered, from fascinating scientific accounts to intimate human stories and deep examinations of how we live deliberately in a melting world.”—Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass
“In The Quickening, Elizabeth Rush chronicles a months-long journey to the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica with scientists who are conducting research that will help us better understand how global warming is reshaping our planet. As with Rising, this book is beautifully written, deeply felt, and thoroughly researched. [. . .] Antarctica is a mysterious, terrifying, vast place and Rush captures all of it with genuine curiosity and intelligence. This book is at once a love letter and a meditation and a gentle warning—and we very much need all three.”—Roxane Gay, Goodreads
“The Quickening is the Antarctic book I've been waiting for—an immersive modern day expedition tale, a reflection on science and knowledge-making, a confrontation with gendered histories, and a brilliant writer's spellbinding meditation on human mistakes, distant goals, and courage.”—Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning: A Novel
“The Quickening is about the end of a great glacier and the beginning of a small life. It is a book about imagining the future, and it is a book of hope.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Under a White Sky
“Going to the Antarctic is an adventure, big science is an adventure, having a child is an adventure—and all of these adventurers are shaded by the great and tragic adventure of our time, the plunge into an ever-warmer world. So, this is an adventure story for the ages!”—Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature
“An Antarctic book like no other, this mesmerizing account of a writer contemplating motherhood tagging along on a scientific voyage to the literal bottom of the world is the best writing I have read about climate change yet. The poetically personal account, mixed with the chorus of the scientists’ statements of purpose, catches the reader’s attention in a way no dry facts could.”—Sam Miller, Carmichael’s Bookstore, Louisville, KY
“One of the most insightful expeditions I have read in quite some time. Not only does Elizabeth Rush sail into the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, but she also elegantly navigates the difficult questions of meaning and purpose that hold together the center of our communities and selves. Rush’s narration is one that will find an audience of questioners and explorers, both of the world and the soul, for years to come.”—Emerson Sistare, Toadstool Bookstore, Keene, NH
“Elizabeth Rush is a proven chronicler of our changing planet, and in The Quickening, she turns her perspicacious gaze to the complex entwining of birth and loss. Told in a chorus of voices, this is a vital addition to the literature of the climate emergency.”—Stephen Sparks, Point Reyes Books, Point Reyes, CA
“At one point in The Quickening, Rush makes the point that we know more about the moon than we do about the Antarctic ocean, which feels impossible and isn’t. This whole book was like that, bringing fantastical truths about the natural world into sharp focus alongside our personal, everday decision-making. As Rush witnesses firsthand the effects of climate change on the glacier Thwaites while hoping to become a mother, we’re able to focus on hope even as we reckon with our impact on the planet.”—Ellie Ray, Content Book Store, Northfield, MN
“Ranging from glaciers to what grows within, this journey to Antarctica is like none you’ve read before—delightful and devastating, profound and grounded, but most of all shimmering with life. The Quickening is a mesmerizing ode to the power of melting ice and the necessity of creation amid world-altering change. I cried and laughed from cover to cover.” —Bathsheba Demuth, author of Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait
“In The Quickening, Elizabeth Rush offers readers a symphony of voices from the people who stand at the forefront of climate investigations, woven with the singular lyrical story about a woman’s embodied hope for the future. On a ship bound for the uncharted edge of the fragile Thwaites Glacier, experience an Antarctic voyage you’ve never heard before, about a warming world breaking apart, even as new life begins.” —Meera Subramanian, author of A River Runs Again: India’s Natural World in Crisis, from the Barren Cliffs of Rajasthan to the Farmlands of Karnataka
About the Author
Elizabeth Rush is the author o