Mafia Wife is a raw, insightful, tough, magnetic book about choices – good and bad. Lynda Milito, with help from Reg Potterton, pours out her heart, soul, fears, and regrets in black and white. She invites us into the dark world of organized crime, introducing notorious men like Paul Castellano, Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, and John Gotti. She shatters illusions and delusions; through depictions of crime, violence, and betrayal, Milito reveals a lifestyle devoid of glamour and fulfillment. In an environment where women and children receive less loyalty and respect than men, Milito revisits her years married to a “made man.” She paints the portrait of a man who was vicious and abusive, yet kind and generous. This was a man who experienced peace when he hunted, but deprived Lynda of peace the years he was in her life – and even after he disappeared.
With the turn of every page, we constantly ask "Why? How?" And "Why?" some more. We seek a silver lining in her book – the happily-ever-after ending. But this is a recollection of cold reality, not a fairy tale. And the only silver anything we notice is a dress her mother-in-law once made for her. The miracle is the fact that she managed to survive through such unimaginable hardships. Rich and organic, Mafia Wife is a testimony worthy of attention.
By the time Lynda Lustig meets Louie Milito, life has been no bed of roses for her. She is a sixteen-year-old high school dropout who has suffered through polio, two rapes, and a tyrannical mother. Desperate for love, attention, and freedom, Lynda is vulnerable. So the night she meets a young hairdresser named Louie Milito in a club, she has not developed the kind of self-esteem that helps some people make good choices.
Louie showers Lynda with attention. He listens to her. They dance and laugh. Lynda is hooked. She thinks she has found her knight-in-shining-armor – and a way out of her mother’s house. Lynda is halfway right. Louie becomes her ticket to a place of her own. But her prince quickly squashes any fantasy she has about him otherwise. He reveals he is a petty thief. In order to be accepted, Lynda becomes a willing accomplice to some of his illegal undertakings. It is one evening, while she helps him change the mileage on auto titles, that he first strikes her. Instead of severing ties with Louie, Lynda stays with him, thinking things will get better.
But they don’t.
When they marry two years later, Louie has been arrested at least twice and has served jail time. He has committed a felony with Sammy Gravano while receiving favors from members of organized crime. Lynda learns later that Louie was doing this – and more – as a way to prepare himself to becoming a “made man” with the mafia.
In 1977, a girlfriend informs Lynda that Louie finally got “straightened out” - taken the oath with the Gambinos. This news only adds to Lynda's stress. At home she suffers, but she tries to make life pleasant for her and Louie’s two children, Louis and Deena, as much as she can. She is especially thrilled when Louie plays the role of the doting father. But his mental, emotional, and physical abuse is too much for her to handle some days. On several occasions, she attempts suicide.
This pattern continues for years. In between the chaos, the Militos manage to prosper somewhat. They earn enough money to send their children to good schools and buy property. Lynda even becomes a successful real estate agent. However, she longs to escape from under the dark cloud being connected to the Mafia has produced in her life. To compound he misery, Sammy Gravano becomes a constant figure in her family’s life around the 1980s.
From the beginning, Lynda has her suspicions about his loyalty to her husband. She also notices that more and more people tend to die when he is present. In fact, after Paul Castellano is killed, Sammy and John Gotti move right to the top of the Gambino family. When Louie disappears on March 8, 1988, there is no doubt in Lynda’s mind that Sammy killed her husband. She looks for support from friends and associates only to be given cold shoulders. Louie had always told her if anything happened to him, she and the children would be taken care of.
How wrong he was.
Years have passed since Lynda was the wife of a mobster. She has evolved into a hard woman who no longer believes in fairy tales. Through therapy, she tries to come to terms with her past trials and tribulations. Lynda Milito now lives in Florida – far away from the streets where a guy from Coney Island once danced his way into her world, giving her the story of her life.