Mary Higgins Clark, America's Queen of Suspense, and her daughter, bestselling author Carol Higgins Clark, have followed the successful publication of last year's holiday bestseller Deck the Halls with a heartwarming tale that combines much of the charm of the classic movie It's a Wonderful Life with unexpected menace.
Meet Sterling Brooks. His was not an exemplary life -- he was too self-absorbed to ever really think about anyone else or make a commitment to the woman he loved. On the other hand, he had endearing qualities. His actual misdeeds were few -- his were sins of omission, not commission.
It is a few days before Christmas. For forty-six years Sterling has lingered in the celestial waiting room outside the heavenly gates, awaiting summons by the Heavenly Council. Will he be deemed fit for entrance into heaven? At last the day comes and the council settles on a test for Sterling -- he will be sent back to earth and given an opportunity to prove his worthiness by helping someone else.
Sterling Brooks finds himself in Manhattan, at the skating rink in Rockefeller Center. Among the skaters is a heartbroken seven-year-old named Marissa, and as Sterling soon realizes, it is she he has been sent to help. Marissa's sadness comes from her separation from the father she adores, a talented young singer, and her sparkling grandmother, owner of a popular restaurant. Both have been forced into the Witness Protection Program because two mobsters, the Badgett brothers, have put a price on their heads to prevent their testifying against them in an arson case.
Sterling, able to move back and forth in time and place, masterminds a plan to eliminate the threat from the Badgett brothers and reunite Marissa with her loved ones.
Filled with suspense and humor, He Sees You When You're Sleeping is a perfect story for the holidays, a delightful and warmhearted tale of perseverance, redemption, and love.
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November 20, 2001
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Excerpt from He Sees You When You're Sleeping by Carol Higgins Clark
There's nothing worse than listening to the sounds of preparations for a great party, knowing that you're not invited. It's even worse when the party is located in heaven, Sterling Brooks thought to himself. He had been detained in the celestial waiting room, located right outside the heavenly gates, for forty-six years by earthly count. Now he could hear the heavenly choir doing a run-through of the songs that would commence the upcoming Christmas Eve celebration.
"Hark, the herald angels sing..."
Sterling sighed. He'd always loved that song. He shifted in his seat and looked around. Rows of pews were filled with people who were waiting to be called before the Heavenly Council. People who had to answer for certain things they'd done -- or not done -- in life, before they received admission to heaven.
Sterling had been there longer than anyone. He felt like the kid whose mother forget to pick him up from school. He usually was able to keep up a cheerful front, but lately he'd been feeling more and more forlorn. From his seat by the window, he had watched over the years as so many people he had known on earth whizzed past, on a nonstop trip to heaven. Occasionally he was shocked and a little irritated when some of them were not made to do time in the celestial waiting room. Even the guy who had cheated on his income tax and lied about his golf score soared blissfully over the bridge that separated the celestial waiting room from the heavenly gates.
But it had been the sight of Annie that tore his heart. A couple of weeks ago, the woman he'd loved but hadn't married, the woman he'd kept dangling had wafted past, looking as pretty and young as the first day they'd met. He ran to the information desk and inquired about Annie Mansfield, the soul who had just flown by the observation window. The angel checked his computer, then raised his eyebrows. "She died a few minutes ago, on her eighty-seventh birthday. While blowing out the candles, she had a dizzy spell. What an exemplary life she led. Generous. Giving. Caring. Loving."
"Did she ever marry " Sterling asked.
The angel pressed some keys and moved the cursor, much like a ticket agent at the airport, trying to find confirmation of a reservation. He frowned. "She was engaged for a long time to some jerk who strung her along, then was heartbroken when he died unexpectedly. He was beaned in the head by a golfball." The angel pressed the cursor again and looked up at Sterling. "Oh, sorry. That's you."
Sterling slunk back to his seat. Since then he'd done a lot of thinking. He admitted to himself that he had sailed through his fifty-one years on earth, never taking on any responsibility and always managing to stay away from the unpleasant and the worrisome. I adopted Scarlett O'Hara's motto, "I'll think about it tomorrow," he acknowledged to himself.
The only time Sterling remembered experiencing prolonged anxiety was when he was on the waiting list for Brown University. All his friends from prep school had received thick envelopes from the colleges of their choice, welcoming them into the fold and strongly encouraging them to send in their checks immediately. It was only a few days before school started that he got the call from an official in the admissions office at Brown confirming that there was room for him in the freshman class. It put an end to the longest four and a half months of his life.