Book & Tour: Cod Collapse

Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland’s Saltwater Cowboys

2021 nominee for the Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing for “Cod Collapse” at the Atlantic Book Awards 

May 2021 author reading c/o Halifax Public Libraries

February 2021 animated film, Last Fish, First Boat is adapted from Cod Collapse

*Now Available* by Nimbus Publishing, Cod Collapse is the first book by Jenn Thornhill Verma.
The cover art is also painted by the author.

Pop returned then, as I do now, to this porch in Little Bay East…. I take a deep breath of fresh, salty air—the smell of fish, noticeably absent.

– excerpt, Cod Collapse

A riveting account of the lingering effects of the 1992 cod moratorium on descendants of Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishers, and their communities

In 1992, the cod moratorium put some thirty thousand fishers across Newfoundland and Labrador out of work. These were journalist Jenn Thornhill Verma’s people. Encompassing memoir and history, Cod Collapse traces a lost way of life, digging into the stories of the author’s own family, including her Pop, one of the province’s original “saltwater cowboys,” a fisher on the southeastern shores of Newfoundland.

This thoughtfully researched and captivating account reveals how Newfoundlanders from many walks of life, and from distinct regions across the island portion of the province, have coped in the aftermath of the largest mass layoff in Canadian history. Integrating the varied and compelling stories of a whale-watcher, a singer-songwriter, a fisher, and a photographer, this moving narrative deftly takes readers from the present back to the early days of the fishery, and forward to consider what lies ahead.

University of King’s College Don Sedgwick MFA reading series (August 2019, Halifax, NS)


Jenn Thornhill Verma hosted a fall book tour for Cod Collapse in November 2019 in St. John’s and Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Halifax, Nova Scotia and in December 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario. She was to appear at the Ottawa Writersfest in May 2020, but this appearance was cancelled due to COVID19. Keep up to date with future opportunities to come out and meet the author. Meanwhile, see below for words of praise and where to buy Cod Collapse.


“Verma’s thoughtful and thought-provoking book combines personal, familial, and societal experiences with historical and contemporary accounts of the fishery. She has produced a remarkably engaging blend of memoir, history, science, and humanism…. Verma aptly and emotionally describes the collapse as one of the greatest collective traumas in the history of Newfoundland.” —Atlantic Books Today, review by Dr. Jeffrey A. Hutchings, a professor at Dalhousie known internationally for his work on the ecology of fish

“We usually read about the collapse of the northern cod fishery in the language of statistics. Catch levels and quotas tell the broad story of ecological catastrophe. How remarkable, then, to have this perspective reversed. In Cod Collapse, Jennifer Thornhill Verma examines the impact that both cod and cod’s absence have had on a single family – her own.” —David Macfarlane, Author of The Danger Tree and Summer Gone.

“I was born and raised in the heyday of the inshore cod fishery in a small outport in Newfoundland and witnessed first-hand the wreckage caused by the stroke of a pen and the cod moratorium. Cod Collapse is a walk down memory lane for me and shines an illuminating light on the greatest disaster our province has ever endured.” —Alan Doyle, former lead singer of Great Big Sea and author of A Newfoundlander in Canada

“The book is a sombre and accurate depiction of a province that is a shadow of its former self…. (And) Verma wisely attempts to make the political personal in Cod Collapse by focusing on the moratorium’s effect on her family…”—Literary Review of Canada (March 2020)

“Thornhill Verma moves expertly between historical fact, qualitative interview, and personal reflection. Stories of resilience and ingenuity rest alongside accounts of hardship and death. Detailed profiles of burgeoning photographers and well-known songwriters are buttressed against ecocritical reflection. Careful descriptions of different fishing methods are nestled next to overviews of programs aimed at supporting a new generation of fishers.”—Gemma Marr, The Miramichi Reader

“A fascinating story of historical survival, resilience, and—for a younger generation of the province—successful pushback against stereotypes. The interviews with members of several generations create a deeply textured portrait of Newfoundland and Labrador which I wish all Canadians could read.” —Costas Halavrezos, former CBC Maritime Noon host and host of Book Me Podcast

“Why did it happen, how did it hurt the province, and what has developed across Newfoundland and Labrador since? In exploring these questions, Jenn Thornhill Verma has sculpted a family memoir embedded in broader socio-cultural perspectives that range from a capsule history of 15th-century exploration to the practices of present-day fishers where women captain their own enterprises, juggling the requirements of licences and certificates from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and Industry Canada.”—Joan Sullivan for The Telegram, Saltwire Network

“Thornhill Verma’s spectacularly thoughtful and insightful tome on the collapse of the cod industry has just been published to rave reviews. Her first solo exhibition of landscapes depicting the coastlines of NL is taking the art world by storm.” —[EDIT] Magazine

“When you’re descended from fishers, It’s likely you got a mighty tale to tell. Jenn Thornhill Verma—a native of Newfoundland certainly does. . . “Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland’s Saltwater Cowboys” is part personal memoir, journalistic inquiry and exploratory narrative. It is evident that, while Verma lives up along in Ottawa, her heart is still embroidered right here in NL . . . Verma is multi-talented—her book cover photo features her own work of art. Cod bless NL’s latest book author—and notwithstanding our ups and downs with this foundation industry, it is still our defining narrative.”—COD “Fish-Proud”

“Cod Collapse is a very nice dive in to Newfoundland culture today as seen from a Newfoundland born journalist/artist. Jenn Thornhill Verma has lived off the rock for a while and returned for a very personal journey to help get a deeper understanding of the history of her family and home. And to get a sense of what our best chances are of moving forward to a sustainable future, hopefully still based on our historic relationship with cod and the inshore fishery. . . I love the variety of experiences that Jenn has dug out for this book. And the personal journey through her family history and relationship with her Father feel very intimate. This is a very fine book to get a sense of Newfoundland culture and fishery as it is today, as it was before, and how it could be if careful attention is paid to sustain the cod stocks in our oceans.”—Reader on Good Reads 4.25/5

Read the full Atlantic Books Today review (p.24-25)—and check out the cover art and review feature art—also by Jenn Thornhill Verma. Coincidentally, as a graduate of the University of King’s College MFA program in Creative Nonfiction, Jenn Thornhill Verma is profiled in Kim Hick’s feature, So you want to write a book, also in this issue of ABT.)

Read the full review in The Telegram.

Read the full review in The Miramichi Reader.

Read the full review in the Literary Review of Canada.

Read an excerpt of Cod Collapse in Canadian Geographic.

Read an excerpt of Cod Collapse in The Independent (NL).

Listen to Book Me Podcast (Season 3, Episode 1).

Listen to an interview on CBC NL’s The Broadcast.

Read an interview with the author online with Newfoundland Quarterly.

Read an interview with the author with photographer-writer Jonathan Randall Smith.

The Chronicle Herald (Halifax) notes Cod Collapse as one of its featured “Stories of Salt Water and Stormy Weather.”

Cod Collapse made The Hill Times List of 100 Best Canadian Non-fiction Books of 2019 (article is behind a paywall).

Cod Collapse was listed as a 2020 holiday gift from one of Canada’s federal party leaders.

Read some tips from the author for longform writing in Great Canadian Longform.

Read what readers are saying on Good Reads, which ranks Cod Collapse 4.25/5. Engage with Jenn on Good Reads.

Cod Collapse made the top 50 Hot New Releases in Cultural History Biographies on Amazon UK. Also, Amazon ranks it 4.7/5.

Expect a review in a future issue of Saltscapes magazine.

Cod Collapse is one of the books published by alumni of the MFA Creative Nonfiction program at the University of King’s College. See also Tidings (from the University of King’s College) Winter 2020 p.49-51).

Find Cod Collapse on Pinterest.


Jenn Thornhill Verma is a journalist and landscape painter from Newfoundland and Labrador living in Ottawa. She holds a Master of Science in Medicine (Memorial University of Newfoundland) and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction (University of King’s College). Last fall, Jenn published her first book, “Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland’s Saltwater Cowboys” (Nimbus Publishing). Her book received praise and is now available outside of Canada with a forthcoming audiobook. Jenn has bylines in national and regional publications such as ExploreMaisonneuve, and Reader’s Digest; DownhomeThe IndependentNewfoundland Quarterly, and Saltscapes. For two years running, Jenn was a silver finalist for Best Profile Article (2019 and 2020 Atlantic Journalism Awards). In 2019, she was a nominee for Best New Magazine Writer (National Magazine Awards). Jenn is also a landscape and nature painter, with works featured in galleries in Ontario and NL as well as in print (magazine and book) and online. In 2020, her landscape art was recognized for Best Cover at the Atlantic Journalism Awards for the fall cover of Atlantic Books Today. Jenn recently received the Denis Diderot Grant as part of a forthcoming (2021) Artist-in-Residence at Chateau d’Orquevaux in France. Jenn Thornhill Verma is represented at Santini Gallery in Ottawa. Jenn has also worked as a non-profit healthcare executive in Ottawa for over a decade. Read more in Jenn’s full bio.


*NOW AVAILABLE IN CANADA, US and UK among other countries*

To purchase this book, order through your local bookstore (such as Bookmark Books in Halifax, NS; or Octopus Books in Ottawa, ON). Cod Collapse is also available throughout Atlantic Canada in Chapters/Indigo, Coles, Costco and other places books are sold.

You may also purchase online at Indigo and Amazon (Canada).

Cod Collapse is available in the United States (as of April 2020) at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, and other places books are sold.

Cod Collapse is available in the United Kingdom (as of April 2020) at Amazon, where it’s listed as one of the top 50 Hot New Releases in Cultural History Biographies.

*NEW* Audiobook in development – delayed due to COVID19

Cod Collapse is also featured in the “On the Ocean” section of Atlantic Books Holiday Gift Guide 2019 along with other fine Atlantic Books for everyone on your holiday gift list.

Bookstores may also order directly from the publisher—Nimbus Publishing’s Fall 2019 Catalogue (and check out the cover art—also by Jenn Thornhill Verma)

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