The End of the Tether

Written by Harold R. Thompson
Review by Waheed Rabbani

In 1781, following six gruesome years of the American war of independence, two patriot brothers, Daniel and Joshua from Boston, are in Virginia battling Cornwallis’s army. In a skirmish, Joshua is bayoneted, and Daniel carries him to a nearby farmhouse. Joshua is treated by a kindhearted widow, Catherine. She’s also coincidentally from Boston. Both brothers are offered shelter since the overwhelmed patriots are in retreat. Daniel recognizes Catherine as the daughter of a prominent Tory lawyer and learns that her husband, a loyalist soldier, was killed in New York. During Joshua’s lengthy period of convalescence, Catherine and Daniel are drawn closer, but he is perplexed about her help and how she came to be in Virginia. Having faced many setbacks, the patriots are becoming disheartened. Washington devises a plan to crush Cornwallis and writes: “We are at the end of our tether … our deliverance must come.” Readers will be anxious to learn of the “deliverance” and Catherine and Daniel’s fate.

In this historical novel, Canadian Harold Thompson has revisited the final years of the American Revolutionary War. The facts about the outcome of battles and the resulting end of the war are well-known and presented accurately, and the depiction of American patriots’ and loyalists’ convictions make this novel appealing. This is aptly done using fictional characters whose divided loyalties are tested on battlefields and elsewhere. Their thoughts and actions are narrated vividly. The fact that some of them are from the same city makes the plot even more interesting. It seems that although we might be of opposing views and political beliefs, and might even go to war against each other, we are still human beings who are blessed with capabilities of love, understanding, and forgiveness. This is impressively demonstrated when the victorious General Washington holds a dinner for his paroled British counterparts.