It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover may seem at first a frilly, fluffy romance novel. It’s not. Not by a long shot.
What Hoover presents in her latest work is the result of what happens when love turns into abuse of power and physical brutality. The element of impact here is increased by the author who at the end of the novel, inserts a shocking Note from the Author, where she reveals that It Ends With Us and the book’s main character Lily Bloom, is a reflection on the abuse she and her mother suffered at the hands of Hoover’s father. She recalls her earliest memory at the age of two and a half, of helplessly witnessing as her father threw a television at her mother “knocking her down”.
Hoover’s confession alone, which undoubtedly must have been extremely difficult, is also a noble revelation of her intention to help other women who go through this kind of situation every day. Suffering in silence, not knowing what to do or how to get away from their abusers. Speaking of her mother’s decision to leave her father, Hoover states in her Note from the Author: “She left someone she loved so that her daughters would never think that kind of relationship was okay. She wasn’t rescued by another man, a knight in shining armor. She took the initiative to leave my father on her own.”
In It Ends With Us the story is perhaps somewhat different. Lily, a young woman living in Boston, finds herself on a rooftop one night trying to come to terms with the terrible eulogy she gave at her father’s funeral. In this unlikely setting, she meets neurosurgeon Ryle Kinkaid, and the attraction they feel for one another is undeniable. Their relationship develops quickly and Lily finds herself falling fast and hard.
Ryle soon comes to know most of Lily’s secrets. How her father physically abused her mother for years and how she once loved a homeless boy by the name of Atlas Corrigan. Lily feels that Ryle is her soulmate and is convinced that life with him is the proverbial dream come true. But she doesn’t tell him other things. Like how she used to keep a journal when she was fifteen addressed to her idol Ellen DeGeneres and her alter ego Dory, and how after a violent altercation with her father Atlas disappeared from her life, and she never saw him again.
After months of passionate encounters and loving confessions, Ryle and Lily’s relationship changes one night in the space of fifteen seconds. Lily now knows that her future with Ryle has become uncertain and it takes a definite turn for the worse when Atlas makes a surprising reappearance in her life, becoming an unwilling catalyst for Ryle’s anger and rising violence. Lily is then forced to make a decision but not between two men; a decision between living in love but in fear, or breaking with her past for good.
When the ending is revealed, it may be perceived by some as a tad mushy, particularly considering Lily’s terrible emotional anguish which we have suffered right along with her. Be that as it may, it doesn’t lessen the profound impact that this novel unequivocally inflicts, leaving the reader with a contradictory sense of sadness and hope.
It Ends With Us is not for the faint of heart. Yes, it has numerous lighter and even funny moments, but the scenes of Lily’s suffering and fear are extremely harsh and difficult to read. Hoover’s use of prose and her flashback sequence to Lily’s youth as she writes in her journal to Ellen, reveal a scared, innocent, and kindhearted teenager, who wishes more than anything to help her mother break free of the abuse she endlessly suffers. This is enough to pluck our heartstrings and shamelessly bring tears.
Many women (and men as well) may relate to this story regardless if they have been victims of abuse or not. The sentiment in which this novel is written, clearly denotes a sense of understanding and empathy directed to every person who has been a victim of physical abuse, regardless of age or gender. With It Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover has not just written another fiction novel: she has handed over to readers a loud narrative lifeline.