The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Summary and Analysis of Section I, Chapter 2: Wildwood 1982 – 1985

The narration in this chapter switches to Oscar’s sister, Lola. The first two pages are in italics in the second person, speaking to “you” as the main character. The narrative here describes being called into the bathroom to view her mother’s naked breasts. Her breasts are large, and Lola has always considered them an embarrassment when she walks with her mother. Her mother usually tells her to eat plátanos like she did, in order to make Lola's small breasts grow. Lola is twelve during this scene; she describes herself as tall and thin, with green eyes and straight hair. Lola’s mother takes her hand and guides it to feel a lump in her breast. Lola has a premonition in that moment that something in her life is going to change. Lola refers to the feeling as a bruja, or witch, feeling. Within the next few months, her mother has her breast removed and starts chemotherapy. Lola notes that it all started in the bathroom, “where it all begins. Where you begin.”

After the above italics section, Lola starts the first person narration. She cuts her hair off completely and is a punk chick at fourteen. Her mother calls her ugly, and Lola notes that this treatment is normal, because her mother has always been harsh, both with her insults to her children as well as with her hand. Lola only recently resists her mother's cruelty when the cancer began to take over. Lola has always wanted to escape from her life with her mother, and she sees the cancer as her chance. Before this, Lola never caused trouble. She would help her mother with groceries and with Oscar, and would not fight at school. Even when the neighbor assaulted Lola (perhaps sexually) when she was eight, she obeyed her mother by keeping her mouth shut and forgetting about the incident as best she could. However, when Lola has the premonition that something was going to change, she begins to feel the urge to break out of her mother’s hold and become wild.

Lola has her goth friend Karen Cepeda cut all of her hair off. Lola’s mother tries to get her to wear a wig, but she refuses and burns the wig. Beli tries to slap Lola, but she bats Beli’s hand away. The fights between Lola and her mother escalate. Family and neighbors urge Lola to obey because of her mother’s cancer, but Lola does not listen. Lola stays out late and goes to clubs; Beli changes the locks to the house so Lola cannot get back in unless Oscar lets her in through his window.

Lola decides to run away to be with a boy named Aldo, who lives with his aging father in Wildwood, NJ. Lola describes the summer she leaves: Oscar dedicates his life to designing role-playing games, and her mother works two jobs and came home exhausted. In September Lola cuts school a lot, and her mother’s cancer comes back. When Lola does not react to the news, she and her mother get into a physical fight while Oscar watches tearfully. Lola leaves a few days later for Wildwood.

The night Lola arrives in Wildwood she loses her virginity to Aldo, and says it is “the stupidest thing I ever did.” She is miserable and bored. In addition, Aldo’s father hates him and their living situation is hostile. Lola gets a job on the boardwalk and loses it. She and Aldo fight a lot. Lola hopes that her family will put up fliers looking for her but all she sees are fliers for a missing cat.

By November, things are so bad that she calls home and talks to Oscar. She makes plans to meet up with him at a coffee shop on the boardwalk so he can bring her some clothes, books, and money. When Oscar shows up at the coffee shop, he brings their mother and their aunt and uncle. Lola runs, but turns back and sees her mother fall and cry out for her. When Lola goes to her mother, she realizes her mother was faking, but it is too late to run again.

Beli sends Lola to Santo Domingo to live with La Inca, Lola's grandmother. There Lola attends a private school, joins the track team, and makes a friend named Rosío. Rosío dresses Lola up as “a real Dominican girl” by doing her hair and her makeup. She also meets a boy named Max Sánchez. Lola's bruja feeling comes back. Lola thinks it means she should have sex with Max, so she does. Nevertheless, the feeling continues, and Lola begins to lose her track races. One night Lola comes home to find La Inca looking at pictures of her mother, Beli, when she was young. She also shows her a picture of Beli’s father and begins to tell her his story, and suddenly Lola feels the bruja feeling very strongly—Lola knows that whatever La Inca is going to tell her is something she has been waiting for, a beginning.


Lola’s bruja feeling in this chapter is a demonstration of the theme of the supernatural. Unlike fantasy literature, where the supernatural is obvious and the reader suspends his disbelief, here the supernatural appears through small details, such as the feeling that Lola has when she goes into the bathroom with her mother.

Although Oscar is the titled protagonist, Lola’s experience is important to the story as well. She too is a hero of sorts—she overcomes the adversity of her childhood and is a tough young woman without shame. She can be likened to the Fantastic Four character the Human Torch because her character us equated with rebelliousness.

At the beginning of this chapter, Belicia has to have one of her breasts removed. Because her breasts are the primary source of her sex appeal and thus are her source of power, by losing it she loses (some of) her power over Lola as well. Lola’s haircut parallels Belicia’s mastectomy—both of these physical attributes are symbols of femininity. However, Lola’s hair can grow back, and Belicia’s breast cannot. Thus, Lola seems to have the upper hand, as shown by her ability to defy her mother without regret.

Love and violence again comes together in the story, this time in the relationship between Lola and her mother. Belicia loves Lola so she feels she must use violence to control her. Lola uses control as well in her rebellion. She loves her mother but she does not understand her.

When Lola runs away to live with Aldo, Lola explores the power of her own sexuality in order to escape. The name of the town, Wildwood (which is an actual place in NJ) is also symbolic of how Lola is feeling and behaving—wild.

Lola’s extended stay in Santo Domingo allows Lola to connect with her ancestry and with the source of the fukú. In Santo Domingo, Lola learns that Beli was once rebellious just like Lola is. La Inca is able to share family history with Lola that Lola would not have learned elsewhere, stories about her grandfather Abelard. In learning this history, Lola feels she is satisfying the bruja feeling that has risen within her. The feeling seems to relate to the passing on of family history in order to stop the fukú. Interestingly, later in the book, Lola reveals that she does not believe in the curse, yet she seems to have a place in its dissolution.