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The novel “It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover talks about Lily Bloom’s love life and her personal development and maturing. In the novel, we’re introduced to two additional characters – Atlas Corrigan, her childhood boyfriend and a new love interest Ryan Kincaid. Throughout the book, the history of her abusive home and her descent into an abusive relationship are revealed and how she attempts to escape that relationship. This novel and its characters have evoked a wide range of emotions and thoughts in me. It has caused me to contemplate and question many things I thought I knew about myself and abusive relationships as a whole. I was thrown into the shoes of a character that goes through something I’ve never gone through before, and it altered my perception of myself in terms of how I would behave in that situation versus how I had always assumed I would react.
This novel begins with Lily on top of a rooftop reminiscing about her fathers funeral when her thoughts are interrupted by a man bursting onto the roof and suddenly throwing a chair. Lily describes him as beautiful. Later he reveals his name is Ryle and he’s a neurosurgeon. They start sharing naked truths with one another, a concept that repeats itself throughout the book a lot.
Lily and Ryle part their ways on the roof after he’s called for work but that’s not the last of him. In the next few chapters, we learn more about Lily’s passion for gardening and how Ryle somehow manages to creep into her mind and life every once in a while. This shows the development of their relationship and Ryles personal maturity with his mindset to love. He went from “The thought of marriage repulses meâ¦ love has never appealed to me. It’s always been more of a burden than anything” (page 22-23) to not being able to get her off his mind and eventually falling in love with her.
Simply said, I had the same feelings for Ryle as Lily. I too fell for his charming personality and the effort he put in to be a good boyfriend to Lily. That’s exactly what Colleen wished for. She wanted us to put ourselves in Lily’s shoes and go through what she goes through in order to gain a better understanding of how these types of relationships work.
I remember when I first started reading ‘It Ends With Us’ I saw Ryle as a bit aggressive, impulsive and unprofessional- considering he was smoking a joint while training to be a doctor. Throughout the novel, he confused Lily and played with her emotions. But as I became more engaged in the plot and saw his dedication to having Lily, Ryle grew on me, and I was all for it.
When the first incident happened I was shocked. I remember picking up my phone and texting my friend (who already read the book) in complete surprise. After everything Lily has been through in her childhood she didn’t deserve this. But when Lily decided to stay with him I supported her. I wanted to believe it was a one-time thing as well. When looking back now I’m in shock for ever thinking that. As a girl who always swore that if a guy laid his hands on her she would walk away to fall for that situation in a book. It doesnât even make sense to me.
Atlas, her childhood boyfriend is mentioned throughout the novel, in different encounters she had with him but mostly when Lily reads her old diaries she kept from Maine. The second encounter they had was when Lily and Ryle had dinner with his sister and her fiance at a restaurant called “Bibs”, which was soon discovered to be Atlas’s restaurant. When dessert is brought out Atlas comes to their table to ask about their food. “Atlas’s eyes fall to the cut on my eye. The bandage wrapped around Ryle’s hand. Back to my eye… His jaw hardens and he says nothing and walks away” (page 195).
Atlas heard and saw in his own eyes the things Lily’s father did to her mother. He was there when Lily’s father almost raped her mother and protected Lily from getting hurt. Lily used to tell him how she thought her mother deserved better and how she can’t believe that she didn’t leave him yet. Atlas was in shock to see his first love in the same situation she swore she would never get to. He confronted her in the bathroom and told her to leave him but Lily defended Ryle. Atlas compares Lily to her mother, trying to get her to understand what she’s doing.
The second incident happened and I was just as shocked as the first time. At that moment I didn’t want her to forgive him anymore, I was done with it, she deserved better than him but once again an excuse came. Ryle tells Lily about his traumatizing past and my heart couldn’t help but break for “baby” Ryle. The Ryle that had to pay the consequences of his parents’ ignorance. At the start of the novel, one of Ryles naked truths was how he had to watch a kid die because he and his brother found a gun in his parents’ bedroom. The younger brother was holding it and it went off by accident. Only after learning about Ryle’s traumatic past do we understand how much this affected him. “It’ll destroy him for life, that’s what it will do’ (page 18). I found myself justifying his behaviour. I once again let myself fall for that act just like Lily did and thousands of other women do.
The fact that everything is almost too perfect at this point has me on edge, waiting for anything horrible to happen again. As the saying goes, ‘good things don’t last’. My suspicions were proved correct. It happened again and my first thought was for Lily to run as far away as she can. I wasn’t falling for it again. I didn’t care about his PTSD and anger issues anymore. What he did had no justification. He could’ve caused serious harm to her. My heart was also breaking at the same time. This situation gives the feeling of losing hope, giving up on Ryle. They both knew this situation couldn’t be undone.
“Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear” (page 321).
The last incident with Ryle was the hardest and most mentally draining in this book. Ryle reads an article about Atlas’s restaurant, he finds out the restaurant is named after her, he finds and reads her old journals. He finds out the meaning of the tattoo on her collarbone and Atlas’s phone number in her phone case. He raged and hit her head, bit her and almost raped her. When she woke up from that horrible night, the first thing she did was call Atlas. ‘I hate myself because the day he placed his number there, I opened it and looked at it. I hate myself, because deep down inside, I knew there was a chance I might one day need it. So I memorized it (268-269)’
Atlas gave her a place to stay while things calmed down with Ryle and until he left for his trip. She later finds out she is pregnant with Ryles’ child. She was faced with so many thoughts and possible decisions about her and Ryle’s future.
When we had discussions about abusive relationships at school, I always said that those situations are much more complicated than they seem and that we can’t judge women we see on TV for staying with their partners and endangering their and their kids’ lives. But even when I knew and understood that these situations aren’t black and white and there are more factors to consider, I’ve always believed and promised myself that if I’m ever in a position where someone puts their hands on me, I’ll walk away without hesitation. “It Ends With Us” made me realize that even with my mature thinking and my personal belief I’m strong enough to leave, I might not react in the way I always thought I would.
Lily felt Ryle could change because she loved him so much, a mentality that many victims adopt. Colleen displays this victims mentality, highlighting the difficulty when the person you love is the one hurting you the most physically and emotionally. It’s just like she said, just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can stop loving them.
I was so proud of Lily for making the best decision she could for herself and her daughter. I was even pleased with Ryle. I know that seems insane, but after the last incident, I had no wish for them to be together. Even if Ryle had the ability to change, I didn’t believe the risk was worth it. When I say I’m proud of Ryle, I’m referring to the moment he understood their relationship was unhealthy and Lily was right.
After giving birth and the question of if they should try and fix their marriage came up she asked him what he would tell his daughter if she was getting abused by a man. “I would beg her to leave him. I would tell her that she is worth so much more. And I would beg her not to go back, no matter how much he loves her. Sheâs worth so much more” (page 359).
At that moment he was hypothetically talking about their daughter, but those words were for Lily. It also goes back to what Ryle said when he met Lily. “There is no such thing as bad people. We’re all just people who sometimes do bad things” (page 17). Because at that moment, when Ryle made that selfless decision to walk away he was a good person who had done bad things.
Colleen ends this chapter with such a powerful paragraph that really made me stop for a second to think about and I couldn’t agree more. “Cycles exist because they are excruciating to break. It takes an astronomical amount of pain and courage to disrupt a familiar pattern. Sometimes it seems easier to just keep running in the same familiar circles, rather than facing the fear of jumping and possibly not landing on your feet. My mother went through it. I went through it. I’ll be damned if I allow my daughter to go through it. I kiss her on the forehead and make her a promise. It stops here. With me and you. It ends with us’ (page 360-361).
In the end, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I felt bad for Ryle. I was happy for Lily. I was happy for her and her daughter. I was happy for Atlas. However, I felt bad for Ryle. I wasn’t sorry he was left alone. I didn’t care that he and Lily didn’t work out. I didn’t mind that Lily had her ‘happily ever after’ while he didn’t. By having a future with his daughter, he got more than he already deserved. I believe I was sorry for how much he loved Lily. I was sorry for the fact that he was an abuser because of the potential he would have had if that wasn’t a factor. I felt most sorry because I believe this couldâve all been avoided if years ago his parents were more careful.
To say this book was a sort of a realization for me is putting it lightly. It made me rethink things I thought I knew about myself, and it continues to do so. I have never read a book that touches on such a relevant subject to our world in such a powerful way. It gives you a different perspective of the topic, makes you understand that not everything is black and white and getting up and leaving is so much harder than people may think. I recommend this book to young teenagers and even women who currently suffer from abusive relationships in order to encourage them to break the cycle as well.
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