Until I Smile At You

Title: Until I Smile At You

Author: Roseann Lombardi

ISBN: 9781935097167

Publisher: Two Harbors

Until I Smile At You is more than a love story. Author Roseann Lombardi’s memoir brings to light the courage and bravery of one woman, Anna Plato her mom. The time period is the 1940’s. The author takes us on a journey back in time when two young people meet, fall in love and face many adversities that life presents them. Tony and Anna fell in love from the moment they met on the beach. Adverse to their union, coming from Italian American families, both Tony and Anna faced many unhappy moments from the start. Both having parents who were not only judgmental but against their union, Tony and Anna struggled to make a life for themselves during a time when our country was embroiled in a war overseas and many young men, including Tony and his brothers were drafted to serve our country. This brings me to my review of Until I Smile At You by author Roseann Lombardi.

From the start of the memoir meeting both Tony and Anna you fall in love with both of them. Flashbacks to their first meeting and recounting their early life together helps the reader understand the hardships many people faced during this time period. Told in the first person you can hear Anna’s voice as she creates a life for herself and Tony. Family discussions described so vividly and clearly that the reader could feel the tension of the difficult times and the joys that come so rarely within two families so alike yet so different. Tony, the favorite son plays mediator when his father berates and belittles his brother Matty. Anna, the youngest of three sisters, is not favored as sisters Maria and Nedda are by her parents. Dominant fathers who want their children’s lives carved out their way and mothers who try to understand, Tony and Anna enter a world of marriage, love and heartache early on. Life changes when you least expect it.

Anna Lauro was a fashion model and had a budding career when fate struck her a terrible blow. As a young mother you learn to deal with many changes in your life, but when Anna learns she has Multiple Sclerosis, her whole world comes crashing down. MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system.) The symptoms of numerous the cure, there is none. Affecting her balance, walking, eye sight and more this devastating disease gets worse over time.

As Anna’s symptoms worsen and she begins to have less control over her body and her ability to function, Anna must make a grave decision in the care of her young daughter. Her life with Tony will forever change. With Tony’s mother Rose and his father Harry who are more like parents to her than her own, and his sister Connie they come together to help this amazing young woman fight the battle of her life. You can feel the tension, the heartache, the frustration and the love between Tony and Anna.

Characters that are well defined and created the reader relives the events of Anna and Tony’s life together along with Roseann, our author. Allowing the reader to understand and read the inner most thoughts of Tony, Anna and Roseann, makes this story and its events more realistic.

As Anna’s condition becomes more prevalent the author’s description of MS is so graphic that we feel the tingling in her arms, understand her decreased attention span, balance problems and her frustration with being unable to take care of her young daughter. Tony and Anna are now living in the same house but in two different worlds. Tony living life for himself, Anna at the mercy of her family what happens next will break your heart as she is committed to a life of horror in Willowbrook where truths were hidden from the public and realities not yet revealed and Anna no longer speaks for herself.

Hear her voice as our author brings the reader inside this horrific institution along with Anna where we learn first hand of the indignities she faced in this institution. The abuse, neglect, imprisonment and suffering she and others encountered is not uncommon in a large institution where conditions are veiled and kept secreted from the public. MS is not a mental illness. Willowbrook was a mental institution that no one should have entered. Risking her life for that of others, Anna held on until she could not longer handle the abandonment, betrayal and inhumane treatment of her and many others. With an ending that you bring you to tears, author Roseann Lombardi’s tribute to her mom, Anna Plato Lauro, is a must read for anyone who is thinking about care for a loved outside their home.

“I’ll never smile again was their song.” When you hear that song think of Anna and smile. With a mom with Alzheimer’s I do understand.

Fran Lewis







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