As the antagonist of the novel, Ryle Kincaid is a foil to Atlas. He is angry, jealous, and manipulative, and he’s often prone to gaslighting Lily in an attempt to get what he wants. Unable to let go of Lily, consumed with his own selfish narratives, Ryle’s primary role in this novel is to serve as a roadblock to Lily and Atlas’s growing, authentic love and to reveal how selfish love is hurtful and abusive. Throughout the novel, unable to control Lily and to keep her for his own, Ryle grows increasingly angry and his attacks—verbal and physical—on Lily and Atlas escalate, suggesting that Ryle’s behavior won’t change without serious, sustained intervention.  

When Ryle confronts Atlas believing he’s the reason Lily sent Ryle’s drunken, threatening texts to a lawyer, Ryle punches Atlas in the face but is unsatisfied with the results of his rage. Atlas recognizes that Ryle is in an immense amount of pain, suggesting that Ryle’s outbursts are the result of unhealed trauma within him, both the trauma of driving away the woman he loves and the trauma of killing his brother Emerson as a child. Though Ryle’s losses are profound, it’s clear his mishandling of them will continue to cause pain. On his own, Ryle will never stop projecting his internal torment onto others nor will he stop blaming others for his problems. When Lily, Allysa, and Marshall stage an intervention, revoking unsupervised visitation with his daughter and niece until he undergoes anger management therapy, Ryle relents. When Ryle later sees Atlas and is not violent, there is hope that, with time, he will overcome his past and break his abusive cycles.