Finally, after years of waiting, in October 2022, Colleen Hoover published It Starts With Us, the sequel to her 2016’s bestseller It Ends With Us, which sold millions of copies worldwide. For those who were fond of the events of the protagonist Lily Bloom before reading the sequel, it would be helpful to refresh the first book’s plot and remember the plot and the ending. This article will provide a complete summary of the book to help old and new fans to rediscover the most critical points.
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It Ends with Us: the plot, the summary, and the ending
It Ends With Us is about the life of the young entrepreneur Lily Bloom, from the teenage daughter of an abusive father and succubus mother to a young woman who owns a successful flower shop. But Lily’s life begins worryingly to follow in her mother’s footsteps, almost without realizing it. The book, which has solid autobiographical notes, warns about dangerous relationships and sick love. Spoiler alert: this summary is quite detailed and will also reveal essential elements of the ending.
Lily Bloom, the protagonist, lives in Boston, where she moved for about three years for university studies, leaving behind the town in Maine where she lived with her parents. Her father was the mayor of the city (Plethora), a successful man reputed to be a benefactor. Still, privately he’s a violent man who has constantly harassed her wife, beating and raping her.
Lily meets Ryle
The book’s timespan begins on the day of Lily Bloom’s father’s funeral, where we find her mulling over her failure to speak in his honor since she had no positive memories of his figure. As she gets lost in her thoughts, sitting on the parapet of one of Boston’s tallest buildings, a man who will change her life enters the scene: Ryle Kincaid. The man had gone up to the terrace of that building because he needed to vent his anger, and we see him kicking a chair. That’s the first meeting between Lily and Ryle. Ryle is a neurosurgeon, an ambitious man who seems to shy away from stable relationships, very fascinating and aware of his charm.
A spark immediately springs between the two, and the dialogue assumes a precise mode based on crudely spoken truths, such as when Ryle already tells her after a few minutes that he would like to sleep with her or when Lily confesses to him things that she never told anyone. The first meeting ends like this, without the possibility of meeting again if not for a simple chance.
It Ends With Us: inside Lily’s diaries
The death of her father, seen as a liberation for herself and her mother, makes Lily dust off her old diaries. She wrote those diaries in the form of letters addressed to the famous TV host Ellen Degeneres, Lily’s idol in her adolescence.
The book uses the diaries as a flashback to Lily’s past. Through them, we can glimpse what Lily’s adolescence was like: a challenging period spent always fearing new violence from her father towards her mother, persistent hatred towards her, and disappointment towards her mother, who was a complete victim. One of the few things Lily appreciated about her home was her garden, where she could devote herself to her vegetable garden and take care of her great passion: gardening.
But here, in her sad adolescence, Atlas enters the scene: an 18-year-old who goes to the same school and is homeless; his refuge is an empty house in front of Lily’s house. Slowly, Lily approaches him little by little because she feels deep compassion for this homeless boy, sad and worn: a tender progression that leads them to get to know each other better and to trust each other. She shares a story of family violence, a violence that, in the case of Atlas, culminated in being thrown out of the house by a violent stepfather, condemning him to poverty. Lily is the only person who cares about him, she takes care of him, and it turns out that it was thanks to her that Atlas did not choose suicide as an escape.
The two fall in love, and it’s a healthy love made of tenderness, care for the other, and a sense of mutual protection that stimulates them to face life with determination. But Atlas can’t go on living like a destitute, hiding in Lily’s house (while her parents aren’t there) forever. And for Atlas comes the opportunity to start living an everyday life again when his Boston uncle tells him he can go and live with him, finish school there and then join the Marines.
But before moving, he promises Lily that as soon as his life is peaceful enough, he will go looking for her, and they will finally be able to live their love freely. And Lily promises herself that surely she too would one day be able to get to Boston, to get to know this city where everything is possible and everything is better, as Atlas always told her.
The flower shop: Lily meets again Ryle and Atlas
Months after that first meeting with Ryle, Lily has found the determination to start her big dream: to have a flower shop and to devote herself entirely to her project. By chance, Lily hires a saleswoman, Allysa, who turns out to be Ryle’s sister, and thanks to this coincidence, read as a sign of destiny, the two meet again.
Over time, even though Ryle was initially reluctant to deal with serious stories and preferred to focus on his ambitions as a neurosurgeon, Lily and Ryle forge an even stronger and more attentive relationship which amazes Lily, Ryle, and also his sister Allysa, who in the meantime becomes Lily’s best friend and confidant.
In the book’s first part, we see how Ryle ultimately wins Lily’s heart: his initially elusive behavior is transformed by becoming more and more present and showing sincere interest in having an increasingly close and intimate relationship with Lily. The love between the two is very passionate and vigorous, described by Lily in very different tones than the words used for Atlas. Just when the relationship between the two is taking off, Lily, Ryle, and Lily’s mother (who in the meantime has moved to Boston to be close to her daughter) go to dinner at one of the best restaurants in Boston, and it is in that restaurant that Atlas works; Lily and Atlas recognize each other and then have a brief meeting at the exit of the restaurant, where they mutually tell each other that they are both engaged. The encounter with Atlas initially makes Lily doubt her feelings, seeing Atlas eight years after and still keeping her love for him. But the story with Ryle is going very well, so she is convinced that maybe it’s better this way.
Ryle’s violent love in It Ends With Us
Lily senses that her life has finally taken the right direction, and every dream seems to have come true: a successful shop, a mother finally at peace and safe, Atlas’s knot now untied, and an excellent relationship with a charming man, ambitious and who loves her madly. But the right direction turns out to be a mistake. One night at Lily’s house, after drinking and flirting as they usually do, Ryle drops a pan from the oven after slightly burning his hand, and Lily bursts out laughing. At that moment, Ryle’s anger explodes (an element we already saw in their first meeting), and he hatefully pushes Lily, making her hit her head and causing a visible wound in the temple.
That’s the first episode of violence for Lily. She is dismayed, it was all she has always firmly rejected, and she finds herself in her mother’s shoes. But Ryle begins to convince her that he is deeply sorry: while he rushes to take care of her, he lightly cuts his hand with the remains of the pan. Lily convinces herself that it could be a single episode and that Ryle cannot be like her father. The chance brings Lily and Ryle back to the restaurant where Atlas works; Atlas sees Ryle’s bandaged hand and Lily’s wound and immediately realizes something is wrong. He tries to convince Lily to break up with Ryle, finding an opportunity to talk to her while she goes to the toilet. Ryle, however, notices the meeting, and the two contenders begin to quarrel with each other.
Atlas visits Lily at her shop and apologizes for what happened but warns her and hides a note with her number in her cell phone, telling her to call him if she needs him.
Marriage and decline
Lily forgives Ryle’s violence thanks to Ryle’s revelation and request for help: when he was six years old, while playing with his older brother, he pointed a loaded gun at him, and his brother died. From that day on, he sometimes can’t contain his anger, so he asks her to help him. Lily then becomes convinced that she cannot compare his violent acts to those of her father because her father had no motivation behind the violence. Therefore, the relationship seems to proceed again, even if the episodes of violence go on. The two decide to get married quickly in Las Vegas.
But the peace lasts a few months. Ryle falls back into morbid attitudes, suspiciousness, and obsessions towards a hypothetical feeling and a clandestine relationship between her and Atlas (after finding the note behind Lily’s cell phone). That leads to unprecedented violence against her and culminates in a near-rape episode. As soon as she recovers, Lily seeks help from Atlas, who takes her to his house. Lily will stay there a few days after finding out she is pregnant. The confusion in Lily is enormous now, she cannot be happy with the new life she brings with her, and her life is crumbling. Meanwhile, Atlas tells her that he will always be available for her whenever he needs it.
The ending of It Ends With Us
Lily is pregnant, but she does not tell anyone. In the meantime, Ryle decides to spend months off for specialization and, above all, to calm things down. Months pass and Lily develops the idea of the impossibility of continuing the relationship. However, she is also expecting a baby, and sometimes she is tempted to forgive Ryle because she still has a great weakness for him. Ryle returns and learns that Lily is pregnant: he’s excited and already in love with the daughter who will come. Even though Ryle shows himself balanced again and respectful of Lily, as soon as the baby is born (her name will be the same name as Ryle’s older brother), Lily understands what decision she has to make and chooses a divorce.
Eleven months later, Lily accidentally finds herself with Atlas. Finally, as they have been waiting for years, they can be together to continue their peaceful love, made of tenderness and protection. Healthy love, after all.