Page 45 Review by Publisher Blurb
What luxurious forms, deliciously drawn, delicately poised, full of innocence, joy and mutual, unequivocal adoration. Eyes fixed on each other - except when closed whilst kissing - the couple's arms are entwined as the many years roll by, the bingo sheets passing like the pages of a calendar.
I love the cover's narrative: hair greys, fashions change, but not their love for, nor loyalty to each other. Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray, two women of colour, and eventually of some considerable age, able to share their affection and relish their relationship, free from outside adversity and ---
I'm afraid the real world has a habit of intruding and it does so, dramatically, inside. But don't give up hope, for hope this has in abundance. Whatever hostilities Hazel and Mari may face, I promise you that the cover doesn't lie.
We begin in 2033 with a young girl kicked out by her parents simply because she is gay. If you think it's disheartening that this would still happen in 2033, yes, it is. But I'd remind you that racism remains rife even though the Civil Rights Movement (detailed in the MARCH trilogy and THE SILENCE OF OUR FRIENDS) kicked off long before the Gay Rights Movement, and progress unfortunately isn't a one-way street, as evidenced in America today under racist hate-enabler President Donald Trump.
Aaaanyway, the good news is that the girl is comforted by an elderly lady who recalls her own childhood back in 1963 when a younger Hazel Johnson first spotted, at church bingo, a girl who also turns up at school. It is, of course, Mari McCray, newly moved to this more conservative area from California, bursting with an energy that has her stretching her arms and an exuberance which Hazel finds immediately infectious.
"Mari was on my mind for the rest of the day.
"We didn't have any other classes together so I kept replaying our interactions over and over in my head."
That's ever so true! The feeling that someone is so close that they could be glimpsed at any sense, yearning for such another meeting, yet frustrated by incompatible timetables and a big crowd. Instead you are indeed left to replay the last encounter in search of signs and nuances that you'd made a new friend.
Franklin is forever presenting us what is familiar. Here comes another instance, after the pair has bonded over hot chocolate, an instinct for generosity, and a new nickname offered with affection which helps cement any new friendship with its personal, private stamp. Over the following, St-Onge provides us with a montage of further shared endearments as Mari and Hazel root for each other, dance with each other, play each other their favourite songs and sympathise when spice in the food proves too hot.
"From that first hot chocolate, Mari and I were best friends.
"My mother used to say we were joined at the hip.
"Between school and sports, we spent every moment we could together.
"We really loved each other as friends...
"But I wanted something more.
"I wrestled with my feelings for Mari for years. Was it worth ruining our friendship if she didn't feel the same way?"
So there you go: the terrible dilemma which faces so many of us who establish a friendship first, then worry about the risk when you don't know if someone wants something which you do, too.
There's so much which is wonderfully universal about this love story.
In multiple ways it reminds me of Jade Sarson's equally embracing, era-spanning, gorgeous graphic novel, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, MARIE. That one's 16+ with discretion, but there's nothing here that should signify that BINGO LOVE isn't for all. It's not preachy; it's kind and the celebrations, once they start, will induce big, beaming smiles galore.
Its colours by Joy San are as rich and warm inside as they are on cover and I know that I've a habit of harping on about hair, but St-Onge for me is right up there with Emma Vieceli, Kyle Baker et al. Hazel's young, star-struck wide eyes also put me in mind of Sophie Campbell. My favourite bits, however, were the little fingers clasping each other, sometimes in sight, sometimes not.
Representation is important in its own right, as Chris Roberson makes so eloquently clear in his foreward to THE SECRET LOVES OF GEEKS because "people find it easier to become who they are when they see themselves reflected in media and stories". If you've experienced a lifetime of seeing yourselves reflected in media and stories, then this may not occur to you. And, hey, good for you too!
But there isn't enough old age in comics, for a start, and I'm getting on.