Summary: Chapter Thirty-Three

Allysa throws Lily a baby shower. When they are packing up, Lily sees Ryle has returned from England. She’s nervous to be around him. Ryle offers to put the baby’s new crib together, and she accepts his help. Lily feels bad for Ryle and knows how much he’s hurting. He starts to take a step toward her, to hug her, and she takes a step back. Rejected, he leaves. Lily starts to cry but knows that she needs more time before she can have another conversation with Ryle. 

Summary: Chapter Thirty-Four

Lily paints a mural of a verdant garden in the nursery. She finishes and wants to show someone, but no one is available. So she reaches out to Ryle, who comes over to see it. He’s very impressed. It’s awkward between them, and Lily asks if he wants to share naked truths. She lets him go first. He says he doesn’t know what she wants from him, and he really wants some guidance. Lily says she’d never keep Ryle from his child but that there’s a part of her that is scared of his temper, and the idea that he’ll hurt their child. Ryle says he understands. He asks her if there’s a chance the two of them can get back together. She says she can’t know what she wants until the baby is born. She asks him not to push her to reconcile and not to kiss her. She says she can only handle one major life change at a time.

Summary: Chapter Thirty-Five

Ryle stays at the apartment, sleeping on the couch, while Lily is on bedrest during the final days of the pregnancy. He makes her breakfast. She feels things are going peacefully, though they’ve had no physical relationship. When she’s on the phone with an employee at the flower shop, her water breaks. She takes a shower and Ryle sees her naked and pregnant for the first time. She lets him put his hand on her belly, and he’s grateful. He tells her she’s beautiful. The baby comes quickly. Ryle is with her the whole time. They decide to name their daughter Emerson, after Ryle’s brother. As she’s holding her daughter for the first time, Lily tells Ryle she wants a divorce. She asks him to imagine what he would say to their daughter if she grew up to be hit by the person she loved. He says that he would tell his daughter that she deserved so much more and that he would tell her daughter to leave him. They cry together, and Lily thinks about how they’re breaking the cycle of violence she grew up with .

Summary: Epilogue

Eleven months later, Lily is pushing Emerson in the stroller when she runs into Atlas. They’re both running late; Atlas says he’s opening a new restaurant. Ryle texts, interrupting them, and she says she has to go. Lily makes it clear, though, that she isn’t with Ryle and that they just share custody. Lily drops Emerson off with Ryle and runs after Atlas. She says she forgot to tell him that Emerson’s middle name is Dory. Atlas takes her into his arms and tells her that his life is good enough for her now, so whenever she’s ready, he wants to be with her. She says she’s ready. He tells her she can stop swimming now.

Analysis: Chapter Thirty-Three–Epilogue

In this section, Ryle comes to understand all that he’s lost and the irreparable consequences of his violence. Before these final chapters, Ryle was holding onto some small hope that he and Lily would be able to reconcile. In a moment of great joy, when he holds his daughter for the first time and feels that unparalleled love, he also discovers that he’s lost the possibility of raising his daughter with Lily. He sees a final naked truth: to stay with Ryle would be to violate the love they are both experiencing for their daughter. The only true act of love available to Ryle, who cannot stop hurting Lily, is to walk away. Ryle began his relationship with Lily saying he was too selfish to have a romantic relationship or children. Now, as his daughter is born, he sees both that his selfishness has cost him his wife and that he can be selfless enough not to fight any longer to stay with his family.

This section reiterates the motif of Ellen, which represents both Atlas and Lily’s ability to tap into their own inner wisdom and find healing. When Lily chases Atlas down after they run into each other, she tells him that Emerson’s middle name is Dory. This demonstrates how much Atlas means to her, as Dory is an important figure of solace and encouragement to both of them. It also illustrates how important Ellen is to her. Just as Emerson’s first name is for a family member, the name Dory highlights that Ellen was as important to Lily as a family member, serving as a surrogate caretaker when her parents were unavailable to her. In the last line of the novel, Atlas tells Lily she can stop swimming. This elucidates the idea that Lily has come through the terror and pain of both her adolescence and her relationship with Ryle, and is ready to enjoy the good life that Atlas and Lily dreamed of as teenagers.

Lily breaks the cycle of violence and trauma in these final chapters. First, she sets boundaries with Ryle and sticks to them, refusing to give him an answer about their relationship and instead focusing on their daughter. Second, she names her daughter after Emerson, which is a healing act meant to honor the memory of Ryle’s brother and to look forward to a better future. Third, as soon as she sees her daughter and feels her love for her, she does what her mother couldn’t do: she asks for a divorce. By acting out of the love she has for Emerson, she commits to her daughter, even if it breaks her heart and Ryle’s heart in the process. Finally, in opening her heart to Atlas, she chooses the partner who has always shown her kindness, serenity, protection, and respect. Atlas also steps out of the trauma of his past by spending his adult life building something stronger and truer to himself. These choices taken together illustrate that Lily has learned from her mother’s mistakes, as well as her own, and is committed to creating a different life for herself and her daughter.