We’ve been wondering lately: What is the secret sauce that makes novels like Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale so popular, stories set against the backdrop of WWII? Whatever it is, it made me approach Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven with a particularly wary eye. Sure, it’s got all of the ingredients—heroes and heroines who are flawed yet admirable. Check! A love story that manages to be poignant without being precious. Check! It even has cover art that is, as an astute colleague put it, a little cartoonish but appealingly “Disney-London.” If you’re a terrible cook like me, however, you know that you can have all of the right ingredients and still concoct something utterly inedible. But this couldn’t be farther from the case with ‘Brave,’ which was inspired by love letters that Cleave unearthed from his grandparents. The non-love story aspects of this novel are just as compelling, and add a layer of gravitas to a story that could easily slip into “sudsy” territory. These parts provide a chilling reminder that it wasn’t just the Jews who were marginalized and punished during WWII, but black children, poor children, and the otherwise “different” or disenfranchised. Moreover, through the character of Mary North, ‘Brave’ emphasizes the importance of challenging injustices. This timeless message is another key ingredient in what is sure to be another beloved (WWII) novel.