Summary: Chapter Three

Six months pass. Lily quits her job and uses her inheritance to buy a storefront that she wants to turn into a flower shop. She shows it to her mother, who is equal parts impressed at Lily’s boldness and concerned it won’t work out. A woman named Allysa comes in looking for a job. She doesn’t need the money, but she’s bored, looking for something to occupy her time. Lily, who needs help to get her store up and running, offers Allysa a job for a small salary, and Allysa is thrilled. They start to work immediately on clearing out the junk from the storefront. They become fast friends. They talk about Lily’s idea for the flower shop, which she wants to be bold. Instead of creating a traditional, sweet flower shop, Lily comes up with the idea to create a flower shop with a darker, unconventional atmosphere. 

While Lily is clearing out some junk, she falls and hurts her ankle. Allysa calls her husband Marshall and her brother to ask for help. They are at a bar down the street, watching the Bruins game on “onesie day,” in which people wearing onesie pajamas get free beer. Marshall and Allysa’s brother show up at the storefront wearing ridiculous pajamas, and Lily recognizes Allysa’s brother as Ryle from the roof. Ryle and Lily both pretend they are meeting for the first time, but as soon as Allysa and Marshall leave, they start to flirt. Allysa walks in just as Ryle confesses that he still wants to sleep with Lily. Allysa is scandalized, thinking they’ve never met before, and Lily brushes it off. Lily admits to Ryle that she’s attracted to him but says they want different things. Ryle confesses he thinks about Lily too much and that they should stay away from each other. Allysa asks Ryle to help Lily get home, but Ryle refuses, not wanting to be alone with Lily. Allysa thinks her brother is a jerk.

Summary: Chapter Four

Lily’s ankle is sprained, and Ryle recommends she stay off it for a week while it heals. She hobbles to her apartment, takes pain pills, and realizes she’s going to have to fill her time. She decides to go back to reading her old journals about Atlas.

As a teenager, Lily starts having Atlas over regularly after school when her parents aren’t home. They watch Ellen together, and Lily enjoys how much Atlas likes the show, too. Lily feeds Atlas, lets him use their shower, does laundry for him, and gives him some of her dad’s old clothes. Atlas is apologetic, but Lily likes taking care of him. Atlas cleans up some gardening tools for Lily because he notices that she likes to garden but doesn’t have proper tools. Lily is touched by the gift.

Lily writes about trying to stop her father from beating her mother. She can’t stop him so instead she goes to the house Atlas is staying in. Atlas holds her, and she feels immediately comforted. She feels like Atlas is the opposite of her father.

Back in the present, the pain pills are kicking in. Lily thinks about Atlas, and it makes her sad. Thinking about Ryle makes her angry and sad. So she thinks about how grateful she is to have met Allysa.

Summary: Chapter Five

Lily takes a week off to heal her ankle before going back to the store. When she does, she’s shocked to see how much work Allysa has gotten done. She’s happy to be back.

When she gets home, Ryle knocks on her door. He has tried 29 different apartments trying to find Lily. He begs Lily to have sex with him just once. He says he can’t concentrate on work, and he needs to just get her out of his system. Lily says she might be swayed, but while she’s taking a shower, Ryle falls asleep in her bed. The two sleep chastely together, and when Ryle wakes up, he apologizes for his behavior and says Lily will never see him again. Lily is disappointed but decides she has her flower shop to think of.

Analysis: Chapters Three–Five

This section illustrates how Atlas helps Lily break the cycle of violence and abuse by showing her calm, protective, reciprocal love. Throughout the early days of their friendship, Atlas and Lily take turns taking care of each other. When Lily’s father hurts her mother and Lily has nowhere to turn, she goes to Atlas, who comforts her. She notices that just being in his presence makes her feel calm—the opposite of how she feels around her father. This observation suggests that Atlas shows Lily a different way to love, one that isn’t built on cycles of abuse and reconciliation. Atlas is also self-deprecating, further offering a clear contrast to her self-aggrandizing father. By comforting her and providing a safe space for her to escape her abusive father, Atlas also shows Lily that a different life is possible for her.

Lily’s passion for gardening and flowers symbolizes her ability to grow beautiful things out of the rough soils of her childhood. Ever since she was a teenager, her garden was her happy place. Her parents don’t understand her passion for gardening, as illustrated by her mother getting Lily’s gardening gifts all wrong. Instead, it’s a talent that Lily nurtures on her own, a way for her to get out of the painful world of her house, escape her worries, and create something beautiful. Atlas, in giving her the gardening tools, supports the hobby that will grow into her life’s work. In the same way, Atlas gives Lily the emotional tools to escape her family and eventually escape the cycle of violence. Lily’s flower shop, built out of the inheritance she got from her father’s death, similarly illustrates Lily’s ability to grow something beautiful out of the soil of something painful. Though she doesn’t have a single kind thing to say about her violent father, she’s able to put the money he left her toward her dream for a better future.

Throughout the novel, Ryle often gives Lily mixed messages, suggesting he doesn’t know what he wants. Because Ryle is, in many ways, a mystery to himself, he’s confusing as a romantic partner to Lily from the beginning. For example, when he sees her at the flower shop, he both tells her he wants to have sex with her and tells her that they should avoid each other. Even Allysa, who doesn’t understand the context of her brother’s behavior, points out that Ryle is being erratic, hitting on Lily and then refusing to help her. After saying he thinks they should stay away from each other, Ryle knocks on nearly thirty doors to find Lily and beg her for sex. This erratic behavior also foreshadows the darker aspects of Ryle’s inconsistent personality. Later, instead of moving between attention and silence, Ryle will move between violence and love bombing, showering her with lavish gifts rather than building up a steady romantic relationship.