"Music, the longing of love, and searing emotions meld together to create a thrilling storyline. Readers will be hooked from the beginning to the heartening end. This is a deeply poignant novel."
"Everything That came Before Grace" is the long awaited follow up to Bill See's critically acclaimed debut novel, "33 Days." It's the story of single-father Benjamin Bradford who comes of age as he discovers whether it's love or fatherhood that could save him. Haunted by his mother’s death and a series of serendipitous events from his past, Benjamin desperately tries to keep his mental illness under control while raising his daughter Sophia. Set against the iconic streets of Los Angeles, there’s music always playing, therapy sessions and emails to eavesdrop on, shattered friendships and betrayal, and the specter of a true love that got away. Can Benjamin find redemption? Can he escape his demons and find love again? Come along for the ride and find out.
Watch the book trailer!
Check out the first trailer for "Everything That Came Before Grace." Including home movies of Bill's daughter Sophia and footage from last November when Bill worked out some of the chapters on stage in a special pre-release reading.
What Reviewers are Saying
"See’s deeply evocative novel dramatizes the inner turmoil of a single dad who is trying to take care of his daughter while struggling with mental disorder. Haunted by his mother’s death and a failed relationship of the past, veterinary technician Benjamin Bradford tries to deal with his mental illness while raising his only daughter Sofia. Alternating between past and present, See skillfully interweaves his characters’ backstories into the affecting narrative. While the narrative runs at a leisurely pace, it’s easy to get swept up in the poignant story of father-daughter bond. Music, the longing of love, and searing emotions meld together to create a thrilling storyline. Readers will be hooked from the beginning to the heartening end. This is a deeply poignant novel."
"'Everything that Came Before Grace' is an authentic and impassioned novel about the “coming of age” as a young adult of the 1990s transforms into a man of the 2020s. Bill See brings an uninhibited honesty of the inner workings of his character, Benjamin, to engage readers into an authentic conversation of the generational “gifts” so many adults struggle to define. The raw and genuine emotions that Bill shared, through his character, have the potential to radiate into the hearts of his readers - hopefully for beneficial interior growth. I appreciated being challenged while I read this novel. Kudos to Bill See on an entertaining yet provocative narrative."
Bill See’s novel, "Everything That Came Before Grace: A Father-Daughter Story," tackles the high-octane emotions of a man’s most important relationships. The fictional narrator is deeply committed to two women in his life, and his memories sweep across two decades with gently confessional details. It is a novel of forgiveness and hope. Overall, a lighthearted, tender novel that worked its magic on me. It’s about seizing the perfect moments to maintain the love of the relationships that matter to you most. It’s about respecting boundaries and letting people change because, here, in this novel, joy and sadness blend together in an ever-expanding playlist.
– Tucker Lieberman, Independent Book Review
"Author Bill See shares a poignant, powerful, and rare perspective in "Everything That Came Before Grace." This unassuming novel is not only a nostalgic trip through the 90s, but also a challenging dive into mental illness, depression, and the self-loathing so many quietly bottle inside. This is a revelatory and savagely honest story, one steeped in relatable emotions and realistic dialogue that captures the pain and occasional banality of everyday life in an engaging way. Authentic, raw, and compelling."
"This was an exceptional read and I can see this story staying with me for quite awhile. The author’s voice is prominent, clear, and painfully poignant. It’s also incredibly, incredibly male — and I think men (especially fathers) could benefit so much from reading this. Despite some lags in the flow from time to time, the journey was worth taking. You need to be in the mood for this type of read, because it packs a seriously emotional punch. Nevertheless you do get that payoff in the end, so hang in there. I’ll leave you with one more from the author’s literary playbook: "If love is meant to be, it’ll be. I don’t need it to survive anymore.”
-Sacha T.Y. Fortune
“See carefully and skillfully balances the present and past in his narrative…as tensions mount between father and daughter, readers are treated to dramatic scenes with powerful exchanges. An emotionally powerful…novel about a troubled man’s quest for redemption.”
- Kirkus Reviews
"See captures Benjamin’s mental health struggles with unflinching clarity, detailing the creeping in of destructive thoughts and highlighting Benjamin’s use of music and compulsive routines to handle them. Benjamin’s enduring love for Anna and immovable belief that they’re meant to be together smacks of obsession; therapy sessions and advice from a colleague illuminate the underlying toxicity in the relationship when Anna and Keith rekindle their friendship with Benjamin. Readers who stick with Benjamin through these ups and downs will find their way to a satisfying ending. See’s tenderly frank portrayal of single parenthood within the miasma of anxiety and depression will have readers engrossed."
- BookLife Reviews by Publisher's Weekly
"See explores longing of love, family ties, and a person's struggles with mental illness in this moving story. Struggling with the trauma of a painful childhood memories and betrayal of the past, Benjamin Bradford, a veterinary technician, is trying to be a good parent to his only daughter Sophia. But an unexpected invitation to a wedding brings back agonizing memories of the past, shattering the carefully built façade of his present life. Both the portrayal of Bradford's struggles with depression and the questions Bradford weighs about his own ability to take care of Sofia in the face of his family-run mental illness feel wholly genuine. Though Bradford is consistently self-depreciating, he is portrayed with an extraordinary degree of sympathy. The other characters are sketched with equal conviction. See depicts a realistic and relatable father-daughter relationship alongside an endearing friendship bond. The deeply realized characters and the emotional pull of See's writing make this a must-read for lovers of literary fiction."
- The Prairies Book Review
"An engrossing saga of evolution and insight that will touch any reader interested in love, loss, and learning as a vet tech struggles with past, present, mental illness's challenges, and his duty to his daughter. It's especially highly recommended reading for those who look for complex probes of how mental illness overlays daily life."
- D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
A special conversation between two old friends - Raj & Bill
Listen to Divine Weeks guitarist and "33 Days" collaborator Raj Makwana interview Bill as they talk about old times and what went into the writing of Bill's new book.
Check out the ETCBG Podcast
It's more than just an audiobook
Not a big reader? Then listen to the ETCBG Podcast. It's not just an audiobook, but Bill sharing the inspiration behind the story chapter by chapter. Like the 137 songs highlighted throughout the book, or the period the story is set in as it unfolds over 25 years. All the iconic LA landmarks in the book like Canters, El Coyote, getting lost downtown trying to find Al’s Bar, driving along Sunset Boulevard on Dead Man’s Curve, or heading up Pacific Coast Highway to a big Sand Mountain.
Spotify Playlist with all the songs name checked in ETCBG.
“Sour Times” – Portishead
“Color of the Blues” – George Jones
“Gold Sound” – Pavement
“Sabotage” – Beastie Boys
“From a Motel 6” – Yo La Tengo
“Loser” – Beck
“More Than This” – Roxy Music
“Night in the City” – Joni Mitchell
“Be My Baby” – The Ronettes
“Love is All Around” – Husker Du
“Ain’t No Mountain” – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
“Best of My Love” – The Emotions
“Crazy” – Patsy Cline
“Your Silent Face” – New Order
“This Will Be Our Year” – The Zombies
“Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever” – The Four Tops
“She’s a Mystery to Me” – Roy Orbison
“You Are So Beautiful” – Joe Cocker
“Lorelei” – Cocteau Twins
“One For My Baby” – Frank Sinatra
“I Am A Scientist” – Guided by Voices
“Temporary Like Achilles” – Bob Dylan
“Just Like Honey” – Jesus & Mary Chain
“Whole of the Moon” – The Waterboys
Listen to the Lion” – Van Morrison
Rhapsody in Blue” – George Gershwin
“Bargain” – The Who
“God Only Knows” – Beach Boys
“Take Me to the Water” – Nina Simone
“The Maker” – Daniel Lanois
“Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep” – The Swan Silvertones
“Ocean Rain” – Echo & The Bunnymen
“Waterloo Sunset” – The Kinks
“Oh Happy Day” – The Edwin Hawkins Singers
“High and Dry” – Radiohead
“Still Be Around” – Uncle Tupelo
“The New Pollution” – Beck
“Criminal” – Fiona Apple
“Bittersweet Symphony” – The Verve
“Dancing in the Moonlight” – King Harvest
“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” – Frank Sinatra
"Isis" - Bob Dylan
“Anemone” – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
“Sleep on the Left Side” – Cornershop
“Hypnotize” – The Notorious B.I.G.
“Lyrics of Fury” – Eric B. & Rakim
MMMBop” – Hanson
“Semi-Charmed Life” – Third Eye Blind
“Who Was In My Room Last Night” – Butthole Surfers
Waiting for a Superman” – Flaming Lips
“I’m Set Free” – Velvet Underground
“Privilege (Set Me Free)” – Patti Smith
“Get Away Jordan” – Dorothy Love Coats
“Drowning Man” – U2
“The Wind” – Cat Stevens
“Don’t Let It Bring You Down” – Neil Young
“All Things Must Pass” – George Harrison
“Tired of Being Alone” – Al Green
“Talk About the Passion” – R.E.M.
“American Beauty Theme” – Thomas Newman
“Dimming of the Day” – Richard & Linda Thompson
“St. James Infirmary” – Louis Armstrong
“Take My Hand Precious Lord” – Nina Simone
“So Far Away” – Carole King
“Nowhere to Run” – Martha & The Vandellas
“You Never Can Tell” – Chuck Berry
“How to Fight Loneliness” – Wilco
“So Long, Lonesome” – Explosions in the Sky
“Wake Up” – Maroon 5
“Message of Love” – Pretenders
“Blue in Green” – Miles Davis
“Sing Me Back Home” – Merle Haggard
“Speed of Life” – David Bowie
“Drifting Blues” – John Lee Hooker
“Function at the Junction” – Shorty Long
“You Can Make It If You Try” – Sly & The Family Stone
“Dragon Lady” – The Geraldine Fibbers
“Electric Feel” – MGMT
“Rebellion (Lies)” – Arcade Fire
“Peace Piece” – Bill Evans
“White Christmas” – Darlene Love
“When I Stop Dreaming” – Louvin Brothers
"I Still Miss Someone" - Johnny Cash
“Road” – Nick Drake
“A Little Is Enough” – Pete Townshend
“Backstreets” – Bruce Springsteen
“Cypress Avenue” – Van Morrison
“Rich As Fuck” – L’il Wayne
“Wild Mountain Thyme” – Sandy Denny & Fotheringay
“I Fall to Pieces” – Patsy Cline
“Red Eyes” – The War on Drugs
“Magnolia” – Gang of Youths
“Have a Little Faith in Me” – John Hiatt
“Sweet Feeling” – Candi Staton
“Long Monday” – John Prine
“Are You The One I’m Waiting For” – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
“Keep a Knockin’” – Little Richard
“The Beautiful Ones” – Prince
“Lazarus” – David Bowie
“Hurt” – Johnny Cash
“Tower of Song” – Leonard Cohen
“There Goes My Beautiful World” – Nick Cave
“Wuthering Heights” – Kate Bush
“Orphan Girl” – Emmylou Harris
“Pedestrian at Best” – Courtney Barnett
“Back in Black” – AC/DC
“The House That Heaven Built” – The Japandroids
“Tracks of my Tears” – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“Hold On” – Alabama Shakes
“Hello Sunshine” – Aretha Franklin
“Real Love” – Father John Misty
“Romeo & Juliet” – Dire Straits
“Maps” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“We Flat” – PJ Harvey
“I Only Have Eyes For You” – The Flamingos
“A Love Supreme Pt. IV Psalm” – John Coltrane
“Come Talk to Me” – Peter Gabriel
“(I Heard That) Long Whistle” – Hank Williams
“Tears of Rage” – The Band
It’s a Motherfucker” – The Eels
“Still Water” – Daniel Lanois
“Uncloudy Day” – Staples Singers
“Wise Up” – Aimee Mann
“Take This Waltz” – Leonard Cohen
“The Wind” – Cat Stevens
“Why Can’t I Touch It?” – The Buzzcocks
“Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy” - Michael Pagliaro
“Isis” – Bob Dylan
“Tell Me When It’s Over” - The Dream Syndicate
“No Second Thoughts” – Tom Petty
“Willin’” – Little Feat
“Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” – The Ramones
“If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” – Cat Stevens
“Sweet Dreams (Of You)” – Patsy Cline
“Green Onions” – Booker T & The MG’s
“You Get What You Give” – New Radicals
“Truth Hurts” – Lizzo
“This Must Be The Place” – Talking Heads
Bill's introduction to "Everything That Came Before Grace" as it appears in the book
After I released my first book, “33 Days,” people kept asking if I had another book in me. I was able to sidestep question because the healing that came through writing that book led to a musical detour – a Divine Weeks reunion, to be exact. But after Divine Weeks played its last-ever show in February 2019, I woke up the next day desperate to jump into the “next thing.” I’d been kicking around this idea about a music-obsessed, wannabe writer and single-father who used the healing powers of music to keep his mental illness under control. I wondered, “Could someone stave off madness if there was a higher purpose? Like being left to raise your daughter on your own?” I’d also been thinking about how a lot of us are haunted by that one that got away, or how a random moment in your life can alter your fate, even if it takes years to understand it. Now, for those wondering if this is a true story, or a sequel to “33 Days,” not exactly. This time, instead of chasing the rock and roll dream, it’s an aspiring writer struggling with the duty of fatherhood vs. giving himself permission to love again. Take that for what it is, but don’t look too hard through the magnifying glass. Just let the story and the music take you.
Dive deeper into Everything That Came Before Grace
An Interview with Bill on the eve of the release of his first book in 9 years.
Everything That Came Before Grace is a quintessential Los Angeles story, winding through its famous streets and landmarks in a sprawling 25 year journey covering single-father Benjamin Bradford's attempt to raise his daughter Sophia and keep his demons at bay. While the novel is fiction, Bill talks about the real life inspiration that fueled the writing.
Q: Your first book, "33 Days" was a true story of your band, Divine Weeks' first tour in the late 80s. Why the break of almost a decade between that book and this new one?
A: Well, they say everyone has one book in them. The question is do you have two? I grappled with that for quite some time. But what happened was the healing that came from writing that book was the catalyst for a Divine Weeks reunion, and an unexpected musical diversion for several years. So, that kind of gave me an excuse to avoid answering that question.
Q: So, what happened? What was the impetus for this new book? It's fiction this time, right?
A: Yes, it's a novel, but you know, we all draw from our own history to tell our stories. But to answer your question, after the last Divine Weeks show in February 2019, I immediately started scrambling to figure out what was next. I'd been walking around with this idea about a music obsessed, wannabe writer and single father who used music to keep his mental illness under control while trying to raise his daughter. And I thought to myself, "Could someone stave off madness, if there was a higher purpose - like a single father raising a daughter - at least for a while?" That got me thinking about the internal struggle for a lot of parents. This sense of duty to do our best for our kid, while trying to manage our desires and keep chasing our own dreams, and the guilt that comes with that. That's the main character Benjamin's central struggle at the heart of his journey. Can he keep it together long enough to get his daughter Sophia off to college? Can he protect her from the demons that run through his bloodline? Can he get her into the lifeboat? And all the while he asks himself how much is he entitled to enjoy? Can he give himself a chance to love again? Can he give himself permission to chase his dreams?
Q: Without giving away too much, we find through his sessions with his therapist Cassandra that a lot of his issues and obsessions might be illusions.
A: Yes. In fact, he knows very well his thinking may be flawed; that all his sacrifices may not be sound. But he doesn't know any other way, and he's too scared to take his foot off the accelerator. One of the things I was really trying to get across to the reader was, hey, you have a greater moral compass and ability to see what's right and wrong than the the guy who's telling the story. And because it's a first person narrative, I had to create ways for the other characters to express themselves separate and apart from the narrator. Like in emails and texts and diary entries.
Q: You mentioned the lifeboat. The image of a lifeboat is very much at the center of this story.
A: We find out right away Benjamin is haunted by his mother's death, and he has survival guilt because he couldn't save her. So, he's hellbent on getting Sophia into a lifeboat before she "catches" the mental illness that runs in his family. His therapist Cassandra challenges him all through the story to question all those illusions he's tied himself to.
Q: It's very much an L.A. story, isn't it? The people that enjoyed "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" because of all the classic L.A. landmarks in the film will probably enjoy how you take the reader along Sunset Boulevard past the Roxy and the Whiskey and then into the industrial parts of downtown L.A. looking for old watering holes like Cole's, Al's Bar and the King Eddy. Or, all those drives up the coast, or to the iconic restaurants.
A: I think all writers should write about things they love to read. I've always loved movies and books that cast a city as another character in the story. In "33 Days," the van was kind of its own character. In this book, Benjamin drives around a lot listening to music lost in thought. His car is like an isolation chamber with a soundtrack playing while he looks out at the people in his city moving on with their lives, and he increasingly realizes how much he's been missing.
Q: Speaking of music. You name-check 137 songs throughout the book. Some are very well known older songs like "God Only Knows" or "Waterloo Sunset." Others are more obscure indie-rock gems like Courtney Barnett's "Pedestrian at Best" and Guided by Voices' "I Am A Scientist."
A: Well, a lot of my friends will recognize parts of Benjamin as myself. I mean, he is a music obsessed wannabe writer. Hello? The way he makes mixtapes all the time, and finds comfort in music, I mean, turning to music as sanctuary is pretty much my life. But beyond that, I think it's cool to try and drop music into a book the same way a movie does. You just have to use your imagination a little more.
Q: Speaking of Benjamin, you've named him Benjamin Bradford. An ode to Benjamin Braddock from "The Graduate"? You do mention the movie more than once.
A: Guilty as charged. And Anna is named Anna Robertson - a not so veiled reference to Elaine Robinson. Not to mention Benjamin proposes to Anna the same way as in the movie. So, yeah.
Q: There's also a couple scenes up on Mulholland Drive at night. Something that made for a watershed moment in "33 Days."
A: That's intentional and something I took from real life experience. Ever since I could drive, that spot up there looking over all of L.A., is such a perfect place to gaze down there where all those people are launching their dreams. I've always felt it was a great place to go and make a proclamation.
Q: So, while you call it a novel, how much is from real life experience?
A: Quite a bit is drawn from real life events. Most of the characters are based on real people, but as for how it appears in the book, it's not a linear or literal retelling of history. It's just a jumping off point. I mean, people will wonder if it's a sequel to "33 Days," but it's more like I dropped the characters in this book into that moment "33 Days" ends and used it as a leaping off point so I could share the father-daughter journey that's become so much a part of me. The real question is have I found a way to take my little story and make it universal and relatable so it doesn't come off like, "Please read my dairy."
Q: The book is subtitled A Father-Daughter Story, but there is very much a parallel running love story going on.
A: Well, is it love or fatherhood that will save Benjamin? That appears to be the question, but it's not that simple. I'd like to think this book will resonate with three distinct types of folks: really dedicated, down in the trenches parents who privately struggle to be the best parents they can be while trying to honor that intrinsic need to nourish their own desires. At the same time, I hope this book strikes a chord with those of us trying to reconcile certain serendipitous moments in our lives that altered our fate. And yes, that usually has to do with the girl or guy that got away. And finally, I think it'll appeal to those of us who turn to music or movies for comfort. The arts are truly the great healer.
11 Questions for Bill
6. Q. What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?
A: Well, that’s funny because it’s filled with references to music and movies because those are the passions of the lead character Benjamin and the love interest Anna bond on. Like Benjamin thinks Anna is a dead ringer for Ali Macgraw in “Goodbye Columbus” and Anna tells him he looks like a young Sean Penn in “Racing with the Moon.” And Benjamin thinks the foil and his on again off again best friend Keith looks like a young Steve McQueen.
Click to Read More
Check out Bill's first book "33 Days"
This harrowing, deeply personal, coming of age, on the road memoir follows critically acclaimed 80s indie alt rock band Divine Weeks’ first tour in the summer of ’87. Liberated from alcoholic upbringings and rigid cultural constraints, all they have is their music and each other’s friendship. The road is filled with yuppies, brothels, riots, sleeping on floors, spiked drinks, DJs with no pants, and battles with racism. They set out on the road to discovery to drink in all they could and maybe sell a few records. They grew up instead.