49 pages 1 hour read

Olivie Blake

Alone with You in the Ether: A Love Story

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2018

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Summary and Study Guide


Alone with You in the Ether (2022) is a realistic fiction romance novel by Olivie Blake. Alone with You in the Ether is a love story between two people who are learning to live with mental illness and are preoccupied with the nature of time. Because they’re opposites in many ways, their love is complex and challenges their comfort zones.

This guide uses the 2023 Tor paperback edition of the novel.

Content Warning: This guide describes and discusses the source text’s treatment of mental health conditions, substance addiction, and suicidal ideation.

Plot Summary

Regan doesn’t know what led to her meeting Aldo in the armory of the art museum. The day before they meet, Aldo sits on his roof, smoking a joint and considering the shape of time as possibly hexagonal. He lives a life of order and predictability. His father, Masso, calls to check in on his mental health. Meanwhile, Regan wakes in a messy bedroom and is nearly late for work. Her indifferent boyfriend, Marc, patronizes her and reminds her to take her medication. She casually tries to break up with him, but he plays it off. Regan leads an art tour at the museum, while Aldo teaches a theoretical mathematics class at the university. Regan is passionate about her job, while Aldo only wants to solve problems but dislikes teaching. Regan then goes to see her court-appointed psychiatrist (she was caught forging foreign currency and nearly went to jail), revealing little. She’s anxious about her parents’ upcoming anniversary party and the sense that she’ll never be an artist. Regan expresses the latter concern, but the therapist seems more interested in whether Regan is taking her medication. Regan feels caught in a pattern and is unaware that she’s about to finally break free from it. The next day, Regan finds Aldo sitting on the floor of the museum’s armory, drawing hexagons in a notebook. She tries to tell him he can’t be there, but Aldo is too lost in thought and observes that Regan seems too young to be a docent. They talk, and Regan mentions nearly going to jail, which prompts Aldo to leave. Afterward, Aldo considers what led to his meeting her and wishes he had asked her out.

A few days later, Aldo finds Regan at the art museum and asks about her arrest. She explains that she digitally created foreign bills and exchanged them for US currency but isn’t proud of it and that part of her life is behind her. Cautious of her ability to lie, he starts trying to figure out when she’s lying. They go to lunch, and Regan learns that Aldo had a substance addiction but quit after an overdose. He continues questioning her about counterfeiting to determine what sort of person she is. They agree to have five more conversations so that he might solve the enigma of Regan. When he shows up at an art tour without warning and asks which painting is her favorite, she points to Nocturne: Blue and Gold, saying she likes it because it isn’t trying to express a particular story. Their next conversation is at a cocktail bar. Aldo tells Regan about how honeybees are a matriarchal society, which fascinates her. She finds him handsome as he discusses his passion. Regan admits that she only did counterfeiting to prove she could and that she wishes she were an artist but has never felt like one. Late that night, she calls him to tell him that ripples form perfect circles in the water. They talk for hours about hexagons, the multiverse, and who they care about in the world. She invites herself to church with him the next morning. During the service, Aldo starts drawing hexagons and writing equations in his notebook. Regan takes his hand and urges him to write on her thigh instead. He does so with his finger, making her feel alive and as though she’s his medium. She then shows up at one of his classes and laughs as he curtly rushes through the lesson, reluctant to answer questions or provide examples. Regan invites Aldo, rather than Marc, to her family’s party, and Marc agrees, though he isn’t sure what her motive is. Regan then invites herself back to Aldo’s apartment to cut his hair, and they stare at one another in the mirror as he rests his head on her stomach. She leaves quickly, unsure how to feel. On the day of the party, Marc tells Regan that she’ll always come back to him and Aldo will tire of her. Regan goes into the bathroom to call Aldo, masturbates as she talks to him, and has sex with Marc before leaving. She picks up Aldo and drives to her parents’ place as she asks about his sexual history. He compares her mind to a series of doors that must be unlocked.

Aldo notices that Regan becomes different around her family, and he feels nervous and out of place. Regan and her mother argue about why Aldo is there and whether Regan is ever going to mature. Aldo confesses to Regan’s sister, Madeline, that he sees Regan as an infinitely complex problem that he wants to spend a lifetime solving. He hopes to help Regan find her lust for life again. Regan’s mother’s criticisms ring through her mind: that she’s a failure and that Aldo will eventually leave her. Regan knows she’s in love with Aldo. She sneaks into his room that night and tries to seduce him, but Aldo declines, finding the moment wrong. He tells Regan he would rather see her art, and Regan leaves, disappointed and offended. In her father’s office, she looks at a painting he bought when she was a child. She always wanted to be like the painting and gain his approval but sees now that the painting is only average. She finds her art supplies and replicates it exactly. The next morning, Regan and Aldo leave without saying goodbye, and she tells him she wants to be away from him for a while. She stops taking her medication and tells her doctor she started painting again, but the doctor senses that something else has changed. Regan calls Aldo and asks if he’ll model for her, hoping he can inspire her to finally create her own work. They meet at his apartment. Regan asks him to fully undress and then meticulously poses each part of his body. Drawing him, she analyzes every inch of his body. She tells Aldo she has a diagnosed problem that requires medication, and Aldo admits he sees nothing wrong with Regan. As they’re about to kiss, she leaves suddenly.

Later, Regan returns to Aldo’s apartment unannounced, and they make love on the kitchen counter. Aldo starts to feel consumed by Regan and starts to need her presence, and she breaks up with Marc. When Regan and Aldo have their first argument, she knows she loves him because he fights back rather than relenting or patronizing her. Over time, she changes how he thinks and how he sees time. He invites her to meet Masso, and they fly to California. Masso greets Regan warmly but later warns Aldo that she seems too impulsive for him, much like his mother was. Aldo is determined to prove Masso wrong and feels that Regan has become his whole reason for existing. Regan returns to Chicago a week ahead of Aldo and feels lost without him. She thinks about creating an emergency to call him home and starts to feel ashamed of her dependence on him. At a bar on New Year’s Eve, she runs into Marc, who tells her that she’ll ruin her relationship with Aldo. Regan calls Aldo, who makes his love for her clear. They discuss being “alone in the ether” and the human condition of loneliness (258). Aldo and Regan soon move in together, and she negotiates with her doctor to stay off her medication.

Regan distances herself from Aldo, throwing herself into her art and not telling him about her upcoming showcase. He notices that she doesn’t sleep and that her behavior is erratic, and he wonders if he can keep up with her forever. When they go to Regan’s father’s birthday party, not only does Marc show up and try to warn Aldo against Regan, but Aldo finds Regan’s replicated painting in her father’s office and knows that she stole the original. He accuses Regan of not having changed at all and breaks up with her. Regan later wishes she had protested, knowing that she had begun to change. She was producing her own art and learning to be honest. One day, Aldo goes to the museum to see Regan’s work, a three-part painting titled Alone with You in the Ether. It’s a blurred landscape composed of golden hexagons, and Aldo can see within it the entirety of the human condition. He realizes that Regan gives him hope. She calls him, telling him that their love is like a perfect circle and that if time is hexagonal, she’ll keep turning corners until she finds him again. They agree to get back together and to spend their lives figuring out what it means to be healthy and happy together.