A powerful memoir about mental illness and grief, interspersed with meditations on nature, philosophy, literature and science. For fans of The Lonely City and The Outrun.
The ether may be the space beyond the moon and between the stars, but it is also the space between the walls of this house, the space between the people who once lived in it, and what remains now they are gone.
This is the story of Glaswegian artist Samantha Clark, returning to her childhood home following the recent deaths of her parents. Inside, a lifetime of detritus rots beneath crumbling ceilings. As she begins to clear away the rubbish, Sam takes us back to her youth, when the house was living.
Her mother, once vibrant and glamourous in Sam's early childhood, becomes a somewhat nightmarish figure as her mental health declines. She arrives home from bouts in hospital, which no one ever seems to explain to the child Sam; her clothes hanging off her, broken, afraid and lost. Meanwhile, Sam's gentle father is a reassuring presence, an amateur radio user in his spare time, making huge aerials out of copper piping, listening to the atmosphere for voices, earthing the ether.
Clark weaves a scientific and poetic examination of the idea of the space between things, the ether, space, light, air that saved her. As scientists have looked to quantify and understand the ether, so Sam looks for her love for her mother, hoping for something clean and strong under all the sorrow and anger.