“But I don’t want my anger for my mother or Tim or even my father to bleed into Josh’s decision. He’s old enough to make up his own mind, so he can take my honesty and his hope, and I’ll support him in whatever he decides to do with those things.”

In Chapter Thirty-One, as Josh is in the process of deciding whether to live with Tim or not, Atlas reflects on how best to support Josh in making the decision. Even though Atlas badly wants what is best for Josh, Atlas realizes that he can’t make the decision for him. Throughout Josh’s life, he has been subject to the will of the adults in his life, and in this moment, Atlas supports him by giving him the autonomy to decide his own fate. However, at the same time, he wants to make sure that Josh has all the information he needs, so he shares his own experiences of violence and neglect at Tim’s hands. By sharing his own experience and giving Josh the space to make his own decision, Atlas models the kind of love and respect that mark a new beginning for Josh. Because of this support, Josh is able to make the difficult, brave decision to start a new kind of family with Atlas.

“I’m not sure why I’m not scared right now. Maybe Atlas already having had a conversation with Ryle has put most of my concerns to rest. Having Allysa and Marshall in the apartment with us also feels like a layer of protection.”

In Chapter Thirty-Two, Lily reflects on how, even though she’s doing something that may make Ryle feel angry, she doesn’t feel scared. Previously, whenever Lily has had to tell Ryle something that was potentially upsetting, she was flooded with fear, worried that it would lead to rage, pain, and violence. With Marshall and Allysa by her side, and with Atlas in her corner, Lily escapes the oppression of that fear and speaks her truth to Ryle. Because of the courage her community lends her, Lily is finally able to break free from the cycle of abuse that has gripped her since she was a kid. She also establishes the kind of firm boundaries, backed up by Emerson’s other caregivers, that will allow her daughter to escape the pain of her father’s rage and violence. Thus, in multiple ways this marks an end to Ryle’s tyranny over Lily, and an end to the suffering that she’s gone through all her life.

“Allysa puts her arms around me, but I’m not crying because I’m upset. I’m crying because I am so, so relieved. It actually feels like we accomplished something significant. “I don’t know what I’d do without you two,” I say through my tears, hugging Allysa.”

In Chapter Thirty-Two, after Lily, Allysa, and Marshall confront Ryle and present their expectations for the future, Lily feels filled with relief. Though Lily has been trying to push back against Ryle for the duration of their relationship and of their divorce, she’s struggled to make it through on her own. Each time she tried to set boundaries, determine how she wanted her daughter to be raised, or definitively end his involvement in her romantic life, she was met with pushback, manipulation, gaslighting, and violence. This often made Lily question her own sanity or her own determination to fully leave the relationship. It is only through the support of those closest to Ryle—his sister and his best friend—that Lily was able not only to stand up to Ryle but also to fully believe in herself and her own perceptions. As a result, for the first time since they met on that rooftop, Lily and her daughter are finally free from Ryle. They are ready to start a new life with Atlas, one planted in trust and love.