64 pages 2 hours read

Colleen Hoover

It Ends With Us

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2016

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Summary and Study Guide


It Ends With Us is a 2016 romance novel by Colleen Hoover. The novel tells the story of Lily Bloom and her doomed romance with Ryle Kincaid and traces her past history growing up in an abusive home, her fall into an abusive relationship, and her escape from that relationship.

The novel opens with Lily—a young college graduate living in Boston—on a rooftop, clearing her thoughts after her father’s funeral. There, she encounters Ryle Kincaid, a resident surgeon. The couple has chemistry, but it becomes clear that both have different aims when it comes to relationships. Ryle only wants a casual fling, while Lily is looking for a relationship. The two part ways but meet again six months later, when Lily hires Ryle’s sister, Allysa, to work at a flower shop she has recently opened. Lily and Ryle’s attraction to each other only increases the more they happen upon each other, until Ryle decides to explore a relationship with Lily, despite his earlier reluctance. Throughout this time, Lily finds herself revisiting her past and longing for closure with the death of her father, who was abusive towards her mother. To find it, she rereads old journals that she wrote when she was 15. Those journals narrate her encounter with Atlas Corrigan, a homeless, 18-year-old boy. As a teen, Lily was moved to help him when he was without a home and family, and they became close when he supported Lily through her witnessing her father abusing her mother. In the present day, Lily wonders if she isn’t also seeking closure with Atlas as well.

The romance between Lily and Ryle appears perfect, their feelings only intensifying as they spend more time together and become embedded in each other’s lives. Lily and Allysa are now best friends, and Ryle even meets Lily’s mother. One night while having dinner with Ryle and her mother, Lily runs into Atlas. She hasn’t seen him for nine years, and although she is happy that he seems well, she feels hurt at the distance between them. In the end, she tells herself that this is the closure she had sought, especially now that she’s with Ryle. However, Lily and Ryle’s happiness comes to an end when during an evening she and Ryle are to spend together, Ryle lashes out in a rage, hurting Lily. Afterwards, Ryle is apologetic and Lily allows him to comfort her, feeling confused and hurt about the incident. Ryle swears that he isn’t like Lily’s father, who Lily has told him about. Lily threatens to leave him if it happens again and tells herself that Ryle is not like her father. They both declare their love for one another.

The next day, Lily, Ryle, Allysa, and Marshall are eating at the restaurant where Lily saw Atlas. Atlas sees Lily’s wounded eye and Ryle’s bandaged hand and comes to the correct conclusion that Ryle has assaulted Lily.

When Atlas confronts Lily in the restroom, she defends Ryle. Furious, Atlas compares Lily to her mother, whose abuse he had witnessed years ago, when he and Lily had been close. Ryle finds them talking and Atlas attacks him, eventually throwing him out of the restaurant. Ryle asks Lily for reassurance that she isn’t being unfaithful to him with Atlas. Lily stresses to him that she only has feelings for Ryle.

Atlas comes to Lily’s shop and apologizes to Lily for comparing her to her mother at the restaurant. He brings her a gift that he had her gotten her long ago and leaves his phone number, in case of an emergency. His visit and concern remind Lily of her attachment to Atlas years ago. For months, Atlas lived in an abandoned house with Lily providing him food, clothing, use of her home’s shower, and her bedroom floor to sleep on during winter. Cast out from his home and without a family, Atlas intended to finish high school on his own, and join the military. As Lily provides him help and companionship, their relationship changes from friendship to romance. Atlas is eventually able to contact an uncle and leaves for Boston to live with him, leaving Lily heartbroken, but happy that he has found a place to stay. Atlas returns on Lily’s sixteenth birthday, promising to find her in the future, but that night, Lily’s father finds Atlas with Lily in her room and attacks him, sending him to the hospital. Lily hadn’t heard from Atlas since then and always felt sadness that Atlas never tried to find her like he promised. However, she knows now that her future is with Ryle.

This seems to be the case as Lily meets Ryle’s parents, and she and Ryle decide to get married. One night, Ryle finds Atlas’s number in Lily’s phone. Jealous and upset, Ryle leaves. When Lily goes after him to try to explain, Ryle pushes her down the stairs. In the aftermath, Ryle at first refuses responsibility for his actions, and simply asks Lily to tell him that she isn’t being unfaithful. Lily explains how Atlas came to her shop, and throws Ryle out of her apartment. Ryle again pleads for forgiveness, and even approaches his sister, who intercedes for Ryle. Ryle tells Lily the story of how his brother died when 6-year-old Ryle accidentally shot him. Since then, Ryle confesses, he has suffered from rages. Lily is torn between her feelings for Ryle and the resemblances between her situation, and the abusive situation between her father and mother. Lily tells him that she is willing to help Ryle, but that she needs to know when he needs help.

After the incident, Ryle appears to be improving, but one night he again confronts Lily over her relationship with Atlas, threatening her, almost raping her, and hurting her when she tries to defend herself. Lily calls Atlas and leaves to the hospital, where she discovers that she is pregnant.

Distraught, Lily goes to stay with Atlas for several days. Ryle finds her at her shop after, but tells her that he is leaving for England for three months. Not ready to go back to her apartment, Lily returns to Atlas’s place. Atlas admits to Lily that he did look for her after he finished his first tour, but found her happy and didn’t think his life was good enough for her then. He takes her back to her apartment, and confesses he has feelings for her. He makes clear that he understands that she is busy with her own situation now, and only hopes that someday a relationship between them can be possible.

As time passes, Lily feels torn about telling both Allysa and her mother about her pregnancy. She feels alone and in need of their support, but she is frightened that they will convince her to take Ryle back. Allysa, however, suspects that something has happened between Lily and Ryle and confronts Lily. Relieved, Lily discusses the abuse she’s suffered, as well as her pregnancy. Despite Ryle being Allysa’s brother, Allysa urges Lily to leave him. Lily finally approaches her mother, who speaks of her own experience with abuse and how she became more tolerant of it the longer she stayed. Lily’s mother also encourages Lily to leave Ryle.

Ryle has returned and learned about Lily’s pregnancy. He wants her forgiveness, but Lily keeps him at a distance. Eventually, she lets him participate as a father, helping her during the final months of the pregnancy. Despite accepting his help, Lily refuses to make a decision about their relationship before the birth. After Lily gives birth to a girl, she realizes that she doesn’t want her baby to grow up witnessing abuse. She decides that she will divorce Ryle to break the pattern of domestic violence. Eleven months later, she runs into Atlas and indicates that she is ready to have a relationship with him.