“It Ends With Us” is a book written by Colleen Hoover which touches on themes of homelessness, domestic violence, forgiveness, and love. The book is told through the eyes of Lily, the daughter of an abusive parent, who moves out of her small town in Maine to Boston, where she starts a new life and her own small business. Here she meets and falls in love with Ryle Kincaid, the male lead and love interest. As her relationship starts to progress with Ryle, a new obstacle presents itself, reopening wounds that weren’t fully healed and creating some new ones: Atlas Corrigan, her first love.
My Review – *Contains Spoilers*
Let me be candid and start off by stating that I knew nothing about this book going into it, but even if I had known what it was about, nothing would have prepared me for the emotions that I felt while reading it.
My first impression of Ryle, who is introduced in Part One, was not pleasant. Though he was a rich neurosurgeon who apparently had everything, he was angry, blunt, lacked humility, and could not commit to a relationship. Yet, he also seemed empty, and I couldn’t help but be a little intrigued about how he came to be this way. Fast forward a few chapters, my dislike of Ryle morphed into understanding. His anger stemmed from frustration, from working toward a goal that others looked down on him for, from witnessing tragedies every day and watching as death became just another aspect of life. He was sleep-deprived and hardworking; he was thoughtful and considerate, and his desire for honest and open communication is what contributed to his occasional blunt attitude. Finally, I came to see that his inability to commit to a partner was due to his fear of the hardship that a relationship entails, and given the number of things on his plate already, I could both understand and relate to his thinking.
When Atlas was introduced, however, though only in journal entries of the past, the story starts to get interesting. Atlas was the opposite of Ryle in many ways: he was humble, quiet, and also homeless. While he stayed at the abandoned house behind hers, Lily often took care of him, bringing him blankets and letting him shower at her house, and though he had nothing to offer materially, the love he had for her made up for it. He spent quality time with her and protected her when things got bad at home. Though he moved out of Maine to live in Boston with his uncle, he never stopped loving her, and his love acts as a catalyst throughout the story in unexpected ways, especially after crossing paths with Lily at his restaurant.
Now here is where the story picks up.
The first incident took me by utter surprise. In a matter of seconds and a moment of intoxicated rage, Lily is on the ground in her kitchen with blood rushing out of her head, and Ryle, whose hand is covered in burns and his own blood, is trying to comfort her all while begging with sincerity for forgiveness. Ryle attacked Lily. Yes, Ryle, the man who was initially against relationships until he fell head-over-heels for Lily, the trustworthy neurosurgeon whose job is to save lives, the brother of Lily’s best friend and coworker Allysa, the one person in Lily’s new life who knows about the way her father destroyed her mother. That Ryle.
Throughout the novel, Colleen Hoover, the author of the book, does such an incredible job of getting the reader to understand and experience Lily’s feelings firsthand. To be frank, I was a bit frightened by my own feelings while reading. Though it becomes quite obvious by Part Two that Ryle is abusive, it’s so difficult not to feel pity for him upon learning more about his situation. Further, long periods of time would go by with no abusive actions taking place, and as a reader, I really started to think that his promise of “I will never hurt you ever again” might actually come true. I started to wonder if maybe this book was about how Lily would help Ryle to get the help he needs to change the actions that he so desperately wanted to put an end to. I fell so deeply in love with Ryle’s character that I occasionally found myself trying to downplay the seriousness of his actions, thinking about the hundreds of loving things he did and blocking out the bad things, which is quite frightening.
In the author’s note at the end of the novel, Hoover writes that situations like those explored in this story are not as black and white as they appear. This struck me heavily. The idea of finding myself in an abusive relationship is one that has always brought a lot of fear into my heart. Just the other day, before even reaching the first incident in the story, I created a secret phrase and told my brother, “If I’m ever in a relationship and I say this to you, that’s my sign to you that the relationship is abusive and I need your help to get out.” But I’ve never thought of what it might feel like to be in Lily’s situation. To be in a relationship that is so beautiful 90% of the time, but excruciatingly painful in the remaining 10%. To be so in love with someone that you start to lose sight of your limit, telling yourself, “at least this time they only hit me, nothing worse.” To find yourself wondering if you can endure the pain just a little while longer for the sake of your children, so they don’t have to grow up in a single-parent household.
This book opened my eyes in frightening ways, but I am quite thankful for the experience.
If you’d like to purchase this book, you can do so here: https://amzn.to/3sWhmRI (Amazon affiliate link)
— Disclaimer: This book contains sensitive themes that may not be appropriate for all audiences (most notably domestic violence, but also sexual themes, death, poverty, etc.). I, personally, felt the need to skip over a few parts of the story, but I don’t think doing so negatively impacted my overall reading experience or takeaways from the book. However, I, of course, am in no position to make decisions on whether or not you should read this novel, so I leave that completely up to you.