Chapter Twenty-Four: Lily – Chapter Twenty-Eight: Lily 

Chapter Twenty-Four: Lily 

Lily wakes up to Ryle pounding on her door. Worried that she wasn’t answering her phone, he came over to pick up Emerson, who is still at Lily’s mom’s house for the day. Ryle notices Lily’s underwear on the couch and the two empty wine glasses on the table. He accuses her of abandoning her daughter to sleep with someone. She reminds Ryle her personal life isn’t his business. Ryle asks Lily if she was with Atlas. Her silence confirms his suspicion, causing him to assert that he was right to be suspicious of her and Atlas during their marriage. Lily reminds Ryle she left him because of his behavior, not Atlas. Ryle is furious and holds her against the wall by her throat. He hits the wall next to Lily’s head. Ryle is instantly remorseful. She pushes him away and locks the door.  

Fearful Ryle will go to her mother’s to take Emerson, Lily arranges to meet her mother and Emmy at the park. Lily reads Atlas’s letter at the park, in which he says that he realizes that he’s worthy of being loved by her and that he is so glad that he and Lily get to be happy together now. Lily tells her mother what happened with Ryle but leaves out Atlas’s identity. Lily’s mother says she wishes she could’ve protected Lily the way Lily is protecting Emerson. A storm begins to brew.  

Chapter Twenty-Five: Atlas 

Josh has a homework assignment he can’t complete because he’s supposed to research his family. Neither he nor Atlas know who their extended family is. Lily calls Atlas and asks if she can come over. He knows something is wrong because she’s been adamant about not bringing Emerson around before Ryle knows about them. She tells him what happened with Ryle, and Atlas is livid. They talk about the possibility of Lily getting sole custody. She says she feels guilty for never reporting Ryle’s abuse. Atlas thinks about how he may end up raising Emerson as his own daughter.  

Chapter Twenty-Six: Lily 

Lily wakes to a series of drunken, threatening texts from Ryle. She is fearful but doesn’t tell anyone about the intimidating messages. Lily goes to work. Toward the end of the day, Ryle shows up, filled with remorse. Lily is sick of Ryle’s pattern and lies to Ryle, telling him she sent his threatening texts to her lawyer. Ryle gets furious claiming that things their relationship had been fine until recently, strongly insinuating that their problems all stem from Atlas. He insults Lily’s career before storming out, slamming the door. Lucy, who Lily asked to stay as a witness, observes that Ryle peeled out with purpose and that Lily should warn Atlas. 

Chapter Twenty-Seven: Atlas 

Lily calls Atlas to warn him that Ryle is angry and may be headed his way. As Atlas is hanging up with Lily, Ryle storms into Atlas’s restaurant and, once out back, punches him. Though angered, Atlas doesn’t retaliate. Ryle hurls blame at Atlas for all his and Lily’s problems, but Atlas noncombatively points out that Ryle is solely responsible for his actions and challenges. Atlas tells Ryle they are going to have to be a team because they are all going to be part of Emerson’s life. This catches Ryle off guard, and he calms down and leaves. Atlas goes to Lily’s and tells her what happened. Lily is relieved to have things out in the open and finds it attractive that Atlas reasoned with Ryle instead of fighting back. They make love. 

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Lily 

Though Ryle and Lily are both present for Emerson’s first birthday party, they avoid speaking to each other. Ryle confronts Lily, asking her what the lawyer said, and she refuses to speak to him about it. Ryle leaves for work. Allysa offers to take Emerson, so Atlas and Lily can spend the night together. Lily surprises Atlas at Corrigan’s. She watches him work. They go home together and make love. They talk about how they want to spend the rest of their lives together. Lily tells Atlas they’ll need to wait six months to move in together and a year for him to propose.  


This section shows that Lily’s past impacts her present, suggesting how difficult it is to end cycles of abuse. Throughout the novel, Lily has been worried sick about Ryle’s reaction to her seeing Atlas, fearing the worst. She even let those fears hold her back from immediately starting a romance with Atlas, wondering if his violence would have too much of a negative impact on her life. Ryle’s reaction illustrates that Lily’s fears were grounded. When he pins her to the wall by the throat and punches Atlas, he illustrates that his months of controlling his temper were misleading. Ryle’s rage is still a threat, both in terms of physical violence and in the chaos, he wrecks in Lily’s life. Though Lily has divorced Ryle, set boundaries with him, and made it clear their relationship doesn’t have hope, Ryle still believes he has the right to control Lily and his daughter. This illustrates how hard it is to escape violence and the cycle of abuse and for Lily to extricate herself from Ryle’s dominion. 

Here, themes of the power of compassion to disrupt violence are examined. When Ryle comes to Atlas’s restaurant to attack him, it takes all of Atlas’s patience and self-control not to respond in kind with violence of his own. However, he knows that that is not the best course of action for Lily, Emerson, or himself. Instead, he controls his temper, modeling the kind of behavior he expects from Ryle, and he responds to Ryle with compassion, acknowledging how difficult this situation is for Ryle. He compliments him on being a good surgeon and he tells him that he tries to understand his position. He also doesn’t shy away from calling Ryle out for his bad behavior, for the decisions that he made that lost him Lily, but he does so calmly, without resorting to undo rage or violence. By avoiding fights, deescalating the situation, and struggling to see Ryle as a human being rather than just a villain, Atlas successfully calms Ryle, even if just for a moment. More importantly, he changes the narrative for Lily, establishing that Lily and Emerson’s happiness are the most important thing in the family dynamic.  

Atlas’s care for Lily after Ryle’s violent outburst and confrontation reveals the theme of the healing power of true love. Atlas provides Lily with the support she needs to escalate her detachment from Ryle. After Atlas and Lily make love, they talk about Lily’s interactions with Ryle at Emerson’s birthday party, and Lily has come to the realization that she never wants to talk with Ryle alone. This is a heightened level of distance from Ryle, illustrating that she’s committed to setting stricter boundaries with Ryle to protect herself from his ongoing rage. At the same time, Atlas presents an alternative picture of what a life built on love can look like for Lily and Atlas. The closer Lily gets to Atlas, the more deeply she understands how unacceptable Ryle’s behavior has been. This strengthens Lily’s commitment to build her life not around violence, chaos, and pain, but around compassion and love.