That’s life for you. All the happiness you gather to yourself, it will sweep away like it’s nothing. If you ask me I don’t think there are any such things as curses. I think there is only life. That’s enough.

Lola writes these words in the brief interlude that opens Part II of the novel. This interlude marks the second of two instances where Lola takes over from Yunior as the narrator. In Chapter 2, Lola explained how her relationship with her mother deteriorated rapidly after learning that Beli had breast cancer. Lola grew increasingly rebellious, and eventually ran away with her boyfriend. Lola’s mother caught up with her and, as punishment, sent her to live with La Inca in the Dominican Republic. No longer in her mother’s shadow, Lola experienced a rebirth. She adapted to the rhythms of Dominican life, made friends, and started dating a guy who treated her with genuine kindness. She also joined the school track team, where she discovered her talent for speed. In short, Lola’s time in the Dominican Republic helped her develop a positive sense of self. In the interlude that opens Part II, however, things go south. La Inca informs Lola she has to return to New Jersey. And some weeks later, when her mother comes to collect her, the first thing Beli tells Lola is that she looks ugly.

In the quotation above, Lola looks back on the ups and downs of her adolescence and reflects on the lessons her experience has since taught her. As she puts it here, the oscillation between fortune and misfortune is an unavoidable part of life. Rather than attributing her troubles to something like a curse, as both Yunior and Oscar end up doing, Lola understands that her problems have more to do with her relationships. And her problems at this time in her life revolved around her relationship with her mother. When Beli arrived in the Dominican Republic and called her ugly, Lola’s first reaction was to run away. Yet she also knew that even if she managed to get away, she would always be fighting with her mother in her head—she’d never really escape. Instead of making Lola feel hopeless, this realization gave her a sense of agency. She might not have been able to control her mother’s behaviors, but she could control her own reactions to them. By emphasizing life over some external curse, Lola discovered a source of empowerment that allowed her to survive and eventually thrive.