Former Yarmouth resident's book tells ‘inspiring’ story, but was tough to write

Eric Bourque
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Rosemarie Nervelle

By Eric Bourque



A former Yarmouth resident says writing her new book was a difficult and at times painful exercise but one that was necessary in order to share her story.

Rosemarie Nervelle’s book – Swamp Robin, A Memoir – was the focus of a recent event at the Yarmouth County Museum, where the writer read from it and talked about it.

Nervelle was born in Digby and raised in Yarmouth and Halifax. The book is based on the author’s struggle for love and acceptance from her mother, Lizzie Cromwell, who had a child with the man for whom she worked. Her employer was white and married and his reputation and status in the community would never allow him to acknowledge Cromwell or her child, says a media release about the book.

“Lizzie’s contempt and desire for revenge threatened to destroy her illegitimate child,” the release says.

It continues, “The destructive relationship between mother and daughter and the author’s determination to survive form the cornerstone of her story.” The book is described as “a gripping tale that makes, at times, for uncomfortable reading,” one that is also inspiring as the writer talks about how she overcame poverty, abuse and neglect.

Nervelle also writes about the years she spent living with her grandparents on Brown Street in Yarmouth.

In an interview, she referred to Yarmouth as “the town where I was happiest during my traumatic young life.”

She actually lived in Yarmouth on several different occasions, she said, and graduated from Yarmouth Academy in 1952. She recalled working a couple of summers at the Snackerie before moving to the United States in 1955. She has friends and family in the Yarmouth area, she said, and has been back here many times.

Although Swamp Robin is a very personal book, Nervelle said it contains elements everyone can identify with, including love and loss. Among other things, the book makes readers “recognize the injustice in prejudice,” she said.

But the book, essentially, is about her relationship with her mother, who died in 1998.

“My mother and I were not friends until she was terminally ill in Alberta,” Nervelle said. “It was then, I think, that we probably felt a little bit more tuned in to what we each needed.”

Those who attended the book launch at the Yarmouth County Museum were moved by Nervelle’s reading of some passages from the book, she said.

The museum has copies of the book for sale in its gift shop.

This is Nervelle’s second major work. The Witch of Beaver Creek Mine was published in 2007.

Organizations: Yarmouth County Museum, Yarmouth Academy, Beaver Creek Mine

Geographic location: Yarmouth, Digby, Halifax Brown Street United States Alberta

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