HEAT by Mike Lupica
Renowned sports columnist Mike Lupica’s Heat, with its sporty background, revolves around questions of immigration, poverty and the insensitivity of social service. It is a fictional story based on the Danny Almonte scandal in the South Bronx Little League. This base-ball novel concentrates on the story of a young, 12-year-old Cuban, Michael Arroyo and the struggles he has faced in his very early years, as a migrant and a destitute. Having high dreams of pitching in the Little League World Series, Michael Arroyo struggles in his life, with his brother Carlos.
Carlos appears to be a father- figure to him, after the death of his parents. He lost his mother to cancer at a young age and his father died of heart attack just after their migration to America. Carlos takes on several jobs to make ends meet, all the while encouraging Michael to realize the family’s collective dream of having a child play in the Little League World Series. Michael and Carlos do not disclose their orphaned background as they are afraid of being separated and of social service institutions.
If the authorities found out the secret, he and his brother might have to go into foster care or be sent back to Cuba. The only two people who know of Michael’s father’s death are his best friend Manny Cabrera and his neighbor, Mrs. Cora. They offer love and protection to him, along with his brother and are presented as richly drawn supporting characters. Michael’s first relationship with a mystery girl is also woven nicely into the main plot. Michael is obsessed with baseball and he finds relief in this excessive fascination, which, in turn, helps to lessen the harsh realities of his life.
But his dreams get shattered as he is benched in the World League. For, a jealous rival coach questions Arroyo’s age and forces him to produce his birth certificate; he is also questioned of his Cuban identity. He is envious of his preternatural ability to throw a baseball at speeds of more than eighty miles an hour. With no parents and a birth certificate that is jammed in the bureaucracy of his homeland, the shadows in Michael’s life grow darker. Here he is represented as a victim of fate and racial conflicts.
His innocence suffers, in the due course of the novel, as he struggles with the loss of his father, stumbles into his first boy-girl relationship, and yearns to play baseball. However, his resistance towards the negative, disappointing facts of life is praiseworthy. Heat is aptly titled and corresponds to the theme of the story. Firstly, Michael Arroyo has a dream of pitching in the Little League World Series, and a pitching arm that throws serious heat. But that fire power is nothing compared to the heat Michael faces in his day-to-day life.
Mike Lupica crafts a brilliant, fast-paced novel peopled with strong, well-developed characters. It’s too realistic and is repleted with action-packed sports scenes. Moreover, the sports scenes are well written and energizing. Lupica presents baseball action and off-the-field incidents alternatively in the novel. The ebbs and flows of Michael’s baseball and non-baseball life offer the perfect setting for the dramatic turn of events. Sometimes, the author moves toward melodrama, but he keeps his plot with teen version of street humor, quick- witted dialogues and realistic characters. No doubt, this novel is a paean to baseball fans.
Considering the features of contemporary novels, Lupica’s Heat appears to be distinct with regard to its theme and its sporty backdrop. It is not at all philosophical and erudite as the novels of the contemporary novelists like Orhan Pamuk, Umberto Eco etc. Sometimes, it is romantic in its spirit, with full of pathos. It challenges the widely accepted and established notion of childhood as the synonym for innocence and happiness. As a children’s book, Lupica’s novel is an immense success with its theme, characterization, style and plot.
Lupica, Mike. Heat. New York: Philomel, 2006.Sample Essay of Masterpapers.com