Lily Kincaid 

One of the novel’s protagonists, Atlas’s first love, a single mother to Emerson, and a survivor of both an abusive childhood and an abusive marriage.  At the beginning of the novel, recently divorced Lily considers a relationship with her first love, Atlas Corrigan. Determined not to continue cycles of emotional, mental, or physical abuse, Lily struggles to balance her budding romance with Atlas and her tumultuous co-parenting relationship with Ryle. With Atlas by her side, Lily is finally able to extricate herself emotionally from Ryle and live her life on her own terms with the man she loves.  

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Atlas Corrigan 

Lily’s first love, Josh’s big brother, a renowned chef, and one of the novel’s protagonists. As Lily and Atlas fall in love again, Atlas tells Lily the story of his adolescence, revealing the abuse that he suffered at the hands of his mother and stepfather. Wanting to spare both Lily and his brother Josh from the violence of others, Atlas fights hard to get custody of his brother and to diffuse Ryle’s temper. Protective, compassionate, and devoted, Atlas and Lily find the love they both deserve together. 

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Ryle Kincaid 

Lily’s abusive ex-husband, a neurosurgeon, and the novel’s antagonist. Ryle struggles to control his rage and his longing for Lily, continually ignoring her boundaries. Ryle is possessive of both Lily and his daughter Emerson, especially where Atlas is involved. After repeated exhibitions of abusive behavior, Lily and Ryle’s family force Ryle to face the ramification of his abusive behavior by requiring him to go to anger management therapy and by allowing only supervised visits with his daughter and his niece.  

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Atlas’s brother and Sutton’s son. When Josh runs away from home to escape his abusive mother, Atlas learns of his brother’s existence for the first time. Hard, funny, and observant, Josh is hesitant to trust his brother, but Josh eventually comes to love Atlas, who gets custody of Josh and raises him as his son. 


Lily’s best friend, Ryle’s sister, and Emerson’s aunt. Allysa is loyal to Lily, encouraging her to date Atlas, despite how much her brother disapproves. After supporting both her brother and Lily for a long time, Allysa finally intervenes on Lily’s behalf, demanding Ryle take responsibility for his past abusive behavior. This is part of what allows Lily to free herself from Ryle.  


Atlas’s confidant, Josh’s friend, and Bruce’s son. Twelve-year-old Theo acts as Atlas’s therapist and gives him advice on dating Lily. Theo comes out as being interested in dating boys to Atlas and eventually to Josh. 

Jenny Bloom 

Lily’s mother and Emerson’s grandmother. Jenny, who survived a lifetime of abuse at the hands of her late husband, is enjoying her more peaceful life with her boyfriend Rob. Jenny loves her granddaughter immensely. She is supportive of Lily’s divorce from Ryle and her relationship with Atlas. 


Lily and Ryle’s daughter. Emerson is named after Ryle and Allysa’s dead brother. 


Atlas's and Josh’s mother. She was abusive to both Atlas and Josh and eventually relinquishes custody of Josh to Atlas. 


Atlas’s stepdad and Josh’s biological father. Tim was abusive to Atlas and shows no interest in knowing Josh, whom he abandoned.  


Allysa’s husband and Ryle’s best friend. Marshall is even-keeled and supportive of his wife. Marshall joins his wife in confronting Ryle about the ramifications of his abuse. 


Allysa and Marshall’s daughter. Rylee is named after Ryle. 


Lily’s coworker and former roommate. Lucy is protective of Lily when Ryle visits. 


Atlas’s friend and coworker and Theo’s father. Brad supports Atlas’ relationship with Lily. 


Atlas’s coworker, who is a fan of Lily. 


Jenny’s boyfriend. 

Ellen DeGeneres 

TV personality, comedian, voice of Dory in Finding Nemo. Lily addresses her adolescent and recent diary entries to Ellen.