Chicago, sometime. Two people meet in the Art Institute, in the armoury section, quite by chance. Prior to their encounter, he is a doctoral student who manages his destructive thoughts with compulsive calculations about time travel; she is a bipolar counterfeit artist undergoing court-ordered psychotherapy. After their meeting, those things do not change.
Everything else, however, is slightly different.
Both obsessive, eccentric personalities, Aldo Damiani and Charlotte Regan struggle to be without each other from the moment they meet. The truth – that he is a clinically depressed, anti-social theoretician and she is a manipulative liar with a history of self-sabotage – means the deeper they fall in love, the more troubling their reliance on each other becomes.
Alone with you in the Ether, is a glimpse into the nature of love, what it means to be unwell, and how to face the fractures of yourself and still love as if you’re not broken.
My thoughts: as someone living with mental illness, I do understand Regan’s ambivalence towards medication – I take mine because without it I can’t realistically function but I do wonder what parts of me it silences. For Regan it’s her art, she can’t draw or paint while medicated.
For Aldo perhaps it’s his brilliance with numbers, she calls him a genius. Constantly working on complex calculations in his head, contemplating hexagons and bees. The number six repeats throughout the book. The six conversations Regan agrees to have with him.
This isn’t an easy to read, simple love story. It’s complex and messy, much like life. Similarly to the author’s Atlas books there is a fascination with time travel – Aldo is trying to solve it with maths, the Atlas scholars with magic.
Regan and Aldo are interesting figures, trying to solve their place in the world, to understand themselves as well as the bigger questions in the universe – love being one of them.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.