It Ends with Us, Thankfully
A rollercoaster of emotions, but ultimately a disappointing read.
It's rare that I have a one-star read, but this was definitely one. I can confidently say that I did not like this book.
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover is a romance novel that explores the complexities of love and cycles of abuse. Lily Bloom is in a bad marriage, just like the one she blamed her mother for not leaving. Hoover uses Lily to inspire us to question our views on abusive relationships.
Hoover asks readers to think about how they judge abusive relationships. At the beginning of the novel, Lily resents her mother for staying in an abusive marriage with her father. When Lily has to give a eulogy for her father, she realizes that he lacks the qualities to eulogize.
She only understands her mother's position when Ryle beats her. That is the first time she begins to empathize with her mother's situation. Still she convinces herself that she wouldn't let it happen twice.
“I know,” I say, cutting him off. “I know, Ryle. It was terrible. You pushed me. You made me question everything I thought I knew about you. But I know you feel bad about it. We can’t take it back. I don’t want to bring it up again.” I secure the bandage around his hand and then look him in the eye. “But Ryle? If anything like that ever happens again… I’ll know that this time wasn’t just an accident. And I’ll leave you without a second thought.”
Lily points out that she would "leave without a second thought," but when the moment comes it is a much harder decision than she anticipated. I, as a reader, became infuriated when she refused to seek guidance and support from her mother in this situation.
What Hoover does well in her writing is highlight the nuance in these situations. Lily must grapple with what is means to be in an abusive relationship. She must reconsider her resentment towards her mother. She realizes it's harder than simply saying "you should leave him" in black and white.
The reasoning is the hardest part of this. It eats at me, little by little, wearing down the strength my hatred lends to me. The reasoning forces me to imagine our future together, and how there are things I could do to prevent that type of anger. I’ll never betray him again. I’ll never keep secrets from him again. I’ll never give him reason to react that way again. We’ll both just have to work harder from now on. For better, for worse, right?
When readers process Lily's trauma, they have to rethink their beliefs about abused women who stay. Lily's relationship with Allysa raises questions about dealing with an abusive but good brother. Hoover uses the characters to challenge assumptions about why women stay in abusive relationships. Ryle presents readers with both an overall dreamy character and the villain of the story.
I read somewhere once that 85 percent of women return to abusive situations. That was before I realized I was in one, and when I heard that statistic, I thought it was because the women were stupid. I thought it was because they were weak.
The entire book focuses on Lily's cycle of trauma. She is a child from an abusive relationship who later ends up in an abusive marriage herself. She has to choose to break the cycle of trauma (hence the title) and leave her husband.
Cycles exist because they are excruciating to break. It takes an astronomical amount of pain and courage to disrupt a familiar pattern. Sometimes it seems easier to just keep running in the same familiar circles, rather than facing the fear of jumping and possibly not landing on your feet.
The book uses abusive relationships as a lens to determine what makes a person good or bad.
Lily has nothing to say at her father's funeral because she has determined that he wasn't a good person. She thinks less of her mother's character because her mother stayed in that relationship. She even questions the morals of wealthy people until Allysa discloses her charitable work.
We are reminded multiple times throughout the book "there is no such thing as bad people. We're all just people who sometimes do bad things." Yet, still Lily seems obsessed with passing moral judgement on those around her.
As I stare back at him, I think about how easy it is for humans to make judgments when we’re standing on the outside of a situation. I spent years judging my mother’s situation. It’s easy when we’re on the outside to believe that we would walk away without a second thought if a person mistreated us. It’s easy to say we couldn’t continue to love someone who mistreats us when we aren’t the ones feeling the love of that person.
I really appreciate the candor that Hoover uses to portray how a marriage can be both beautiful and painful. The multi-faceted approach is admirable. But if I'm passing judgement here, I just honestly didn't like it. The characters were flat and not relatable.
The trope of a man who is unwilling to commit and then all of the sudden wants to marry and have children with the protagonist is unrealistic. He quickly goes from mysterious hottie to abusive husband with little change and no exploration into the reasoning.