Title: Bingo Love
Author: Tee Franklin
Publication Date: December 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Bingo Love is a story of a same-sex romance that spans over 60 years. A chance meeting at church bingo in 1963 brings Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray together. Through their formative years, these two women develop feelings for each other and finally profess their love for one another.
Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid 60’s, Hazel and Mari are reunited again at a bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage.
*Since this book is so short, it’s impossible not to include spoilers!*
Before I get into the review I have to confess…. I don’t really read graphic novels. I read a couple of The Walking Dead graphic novels a few years ago because I’m a massive fan of the show, but that’s the extent of my comic book/graphic novel knowledge. This was 100% a book blog hype read for me.
I really, really enjoyed the artwork in Bingo Love. I don’t have a whole lot to compare it to, but it was bright and clear and clean. It complemented the story really well and kept my eyes from wandering.
The story itself was a little contradictory to me. I absolutely LOVE the concept of the story – falling in love at the bingo parlor, being separated, finding each other in the same place – it’s all so romantic and angsty. But Hazel…. she was something else. After Mari left she married to a man she said was ‘great’ and that she loved, but then a few pages later she refuses to sleep with him and says that she could count on her hand the number of times they’d been intimate. She’s the one turning him down in the situation, by the way, claiming that each time they’d been intimate she’d had a kid and she didn’t want any more.
Fast forward, and Hazel and Mari see each other in the bingo hall and instantly share a kiss, right there in front of Hazel’s daughter who has no idea about her mother’s prior relationship with Mari. She’d just seen her mom cheat on her dad so she was understandably upset, but Hazel gets mad that her daughter is mad! Then later, when it’s more convenient for her, she claims that her husband was the one who never wanted to sleep with her… even though we’d seen her turn him down. Huh?
Her husband finds out about the kiss and gets mad because, like, his wife had just cheated on him but she refuses to talk about it with him until he’s calm. She calls him an idiot twice for yelling at her… but then…. she yells at him? And it’s okay? The way it’s written it’s like she’s trying to flip the narrative and make herself the victim in all of this when she definitely isn’t. The inconsistencies in the story line really got under my skin. First yelling makes you an idiot, but then she does it and it’s justified. She doesn’t want to be intimate and refuses to be with her husband, but then later it’s his fault because he was only interested it if would produce a baby. Then, to make the husband seem just as responsible for the marriage falling apart, we find out out of nowhere that 50 years ago he cheated on Hazel and fell in love with another woman who’s his true love, the way Mari is Hazel’s. Instead of delving into that and really using that to show how, maybe, Hazel and her husband weren’t actually in love, there’s a panel saying that’s a separate story and we can check it out if we want. It made the pacing feel even more disjointed than it already did and left me wondering why I have to go hunt down another book just to get the full Bingo Love story. I went to find it and…. the story never got made. So now we just don’t get to find out what was going on?
As much as I love the art style, I really think this story needed to be fleshed out. Hazel’s responses and decisions didn’t make sense half of the time and the affair the husband had comes out of nowhere and isn’t ever mentioned again. We find out how Hazel’s family adapts to Hazel and Mari getting together, but Mari’s children and husband are never mentioned. The story slowed down for moments we didn’t need and sped past moments we did for characterization and for understanding why characters were acting the way that they were. Like, in one instance, Hazel’s daughter went from furious with Mari for ruining her family completely accepting on the same page? I wanted to like this so bad because the plot itself was so unique but it just didn’t work for me.