This book was a bit of slow burn for me. It started off a bit slow at first but it progressively reeled me in and before I knew it I was hooked.
I found the characters to be not without their faults but at the same time very sympathetic. While all of them did things that weren't wise, Cleave's writing allowed us to see how they arrived at that point.
Not only is the book a wonderful treatise on the inhumanity of war, it is also evocative of the harshness with which we judge ourselves. The brave in the title is every person who is able to put one foot in front of the other and face up to our fears, even if it is on our own timetable. The forgiving is our capacity to forgive ourselves our own mistakes and carry on. Each of the characters, in their own way grows only when they have managed to forgive themselves, regardless of, or perhaps in spite of the misery external events out of their control have imposed on them.
In terms of the writing, I found it fantastic - there were enough zingers to keep piquing my interest and hold my attention to the very end.
I haven't read any of Cleave's other books, so I can't compare it with anything else. However, I think to do so is to miss what is really fantastic about this book. In my opinion it is the ordinary humanity of the characters that is most compelling, as well as their ability to move forward carrying the scars (internal and external) of their previous experiences without pretence or faux struggle, but with a dignified acceptance.