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Review: Collen Hoover’s phenomenal characterization in ‘It Ends with Us’

Hoover's novel does an incredible job of telling the story of domestic abuse.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/carolinewells05/" target="_self">Caroline Wells</a>

Caroline Wells

March 16, 2022
“It Ends with Us,” a riveting and heart-wrenching story of domestic abuse, puts the reader into the shoes of the victim.

With a seemingly simple and rather misleading beginning, Hoover takes the reader into the experience of Lily Bloom, an independent young female in her early twenties, and Ryle Kincaid, a charming neurosurgeon who is extremely enchanted by Lily. The relationship is perfect until an oven burn incident leads Ryle to push Lily; shocked, Lily realizes what her younger self would want her to do: leave immediately, no questions asked.

However, at this point in the story, the characters and their relationship are developed so remarkably that even as a reader, it’s hard to want Lily to leave (no matter how disturbing this is to think about). While reading, I found myself providing excuses for Ryle’s defense: “He burned himself! He was probably startled and angry at Lily at the moment, blinded by the pain of his wound.”

The story continues with other incidents popping up occasionally as well. By this point, it’s clear that the right thing to do would be to leave immediately, but the two are married and with each forgiveness, Lily increasingly loses sight of her once firm boundary.

Reflecting at the end of the story, as a reader I was stunned.

Hoover’s phenomenal development led me to initially excuse domestic abuse. When stories similar to Lily’s are shared, a common response is: “Why didn’t he/she (the victim) just leave?” In truth, it seems obvious that the victim should always “just leave” when caught in a situation harmful to him- or herself, but Hoover’s incredible book demonstrated perfectly the exact answer to the question: it’s so much more complicated than what it appears to others.

Lily was in love with Ryle: he was her husband, her support system, and her best friend. When trying to make a decision regarding leaving the abuser, love is extremely blinding: Lily couldn’t just leave someone she was in love with. The assumption that the victim should “just leave” is the rational decision, but when put in the victim’s position, the factors of love and attachment take deep weight in the decision making.

Hoover’s novel does an incredible job of telling the story of domestic abuse, including the many layers that are often hidden when considering true stories. She has recently announced an upcoming sequel, titled “It Starts with Us,” to be released in October.

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