He Sees You When You're Sleepingby Mary Higgins Clark, Carol Higgins Clark
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.
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- SIMON & SCHUSTER
- NOOK Book
- Sales rank:
- File size:
- 236 KB
Read an Excerpt
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 forgot 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.
He knew that the reason he had only squeaked into Brown was that, although he was blessed with a keen intelligence and excellent all-around athletic skills, he had simply coasted through high school.
A chill that was pure fear engulfed him. He'd finally gotten into the college he wanted, but maybe up here he wouldn't be so fortunate. Until right now he had been absolutely sure that he'd make it to heaven. Sterling had reminded the angel at the door to the Heavenly Council that some of the people who came in behind him had been called and suggested that perhaps he had been inadvertently overlooked. He had been told politely but firmly to return to his seat.
He so much wanted to be in heaven this Christmas Eve. The expression on the faces of the people who soared past the window, seeing the open gates ahead of them, had filled him with wonder. And now Annie was there.
The angel at the door signaled for everyone's attention. "I have glad tidings. Christmas amnesty has been granted to the following. You will not have to appear before the Heavenly Council. You will go straight through the exit door on the right that leads directly to the heavenly bridge. Stand and file through in an orderly fashion as your name is called...Walter Cummings..."
A few pews over, Walter, a sprightly ninety-year-old, jumped up and clicked his heels together. "Hallelujah!" he shouted as he ran to the front of the room.
"I said in an orderly fashion," the angel chided in a somewhat resigned voice. "Though I can't much blame you," he murmured as he called the next name. "Tito Ortiz..."
Tito whooped with joy and raced down the aisle, hot on Walter's heels.
"Jackie Mills, Dennis Pines, Veronica Murphy, Charlotte Green, Pasquale D'Amato, Winthrop Lloyd III, Charlie Potters, Jacob Weiss, Ten Eyck Elmendorf..."
Name after name after name was called as the pews emptied out.
The angel finished reading from the list and folded the paper. Sterling was the only one left. A tear formed in his eye. The celestial waiting room felt cavernous and lonely. I must have been a
terrible person, he thought. I'm not going to make it to heaven after all.
The angel laid down the list and began to walk toward him. Oh no, Sterling thought frantically, don't tell me he's sending me to the other place. For the first time, he realized what it was like to feel completely helpless and hopeless.
"Sterling Brooks," the angel said. "You have been summoned to an extraordinary meeting of the Heavenly Council. Follow me, please."
A tiny whisper of hope flickered in Sterling's being. Maybe, just maybe, he still had a chance. Bracing himself, he stood up and followed the angel to the door of the chamber. The angel, his face and voice full of sympathy, whispered, "Good luck," as he opened the door and pushed Sterling inside.
The room was not large. It was bathed in a soft, exquisite light, the likes of which Sterling had never experienced. The floor-to-ceiling window gave an awesome view of the heavenly gates and he realized the light was reflecting off them.
Four men and four women were seated at a long table, facing him. From the halos shining around their heads, he realized immediately that they were all saints, even though he didn't recognize them from the stained-glass windows in cathedrals he had visited while on vacation. The outfits they were wearing varied from biblical robes to twentieth-century dress. With the instinctive knowledge that was now part of him, Sterling understood that they were wearing the typical garb of the periods in which they had lived. The man at the far end, a grave-faced monk, opened the proceedings.
"Sit down, Sterling. We've got a bone to pick with you."
Sterling took the seat, acutely aware that all eyes were fixed on him.
One of the women, dressed in an elegant red velvet gown and wearing a tiara, said in a cultured voice, "You had an easy life, didn't you, Sterling?"
Looks like you did too, Sterling thought, but held his tongue. He nodded meekly. "Yes, ma'am."
The monk looked at him sternly. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Her majesty did great good for her subjects."
My God, they can read my thoughts, Sterling realized, and he began to tremble.
"But you never went out of your way for anybody," the queen continued.
"You were a fair-weather friend," said a man in shepherd's garb, seated second from the right.
"Passive-aggressive," declared a young matador, who was picking a thread off the end of his red cape.
"What does that mean?" Sterling asked, frightened.
"Oh, sorry. That earthly expression came into use after your time. It's a very popular one now, believe me."
"Covers a multitude of sins," muttered a beautiful woman who reminded Sterling of the pictures he'd seen of Pocahontas.
"Aggressive?" Sterling said. "I never lost my temper. Ever."
"Passive-aggressive is something different. You hurt people by not doing things. And by making promises you have no intention of keeping."
"You were self-absorbed," a sweet-faced nun on the end said. "You were a good estate lawyer, tidying up little problems for the ultrarich, but you never lent your expertise to the poor unfortunate who was unfairly losing his home or the lease on his store. What's worse, you actually considered helping out once in a while and then decided not to get involved." She shook her head. "You were too much of a good-time Charlie."
"The kind who jumped into the first lifeboat when the ship was going down," a saint in the uniform of a British admiral snapped. "A cad, by George. Why, you never once helped an old lady cross the street."
"I never once spotted an old lady who needed help!"
"That's it in a nutshell," they said in unison. "You were too smug and self-absorbed to really notice what was going on around you."
"I'm sorry," Sterling said humbly. "I thought I was a pretty nice guy. I never meant to hurt anybody. Is there anything I can do now to make it up?"
The members of the council looked at each other.
"How bad could I have been?" Sterling cried. He pointed toward the waiting room. "In all this time I've talked to a lot of the souls who have passed through there. None of them were saints! And by the way, I saw someone who cheated on his income tax go straight to heaven. You must have missed him!"
They all laughed. "You're absolutely right. We were on a coffee break. But on the other hand, he donated a lot of that money to charity."
"What about his golf game?" Sterling asked eagerly. "I never once cheated the way he did. And I got hit in the head by a golf ball. As I was dying, I forgave the guy who did it. Not everyone would be that nice."
They stared at him as his mind filled with images of all the times in his life when he'd let people down. Annie. He was too selfish to marry her, but he always let her keep hoping because he didn't want to lose her. After he died, it was too late for her to have the family she always wanted. And now she was in heaven. He had to see her again.
Sterling felt wretched. He had to know his fate. "What are you telling me?" he asked. "Will I ever get to heaven?"
"Funny you should ask," the monk replied. "We've discussed your case, and we've decided that you seem to be the appropriate candidate for an experiment we've been weighing for some time."
Sterling's ears pricked up. All was not lost.
"I love experiments," he said enthusiastically. "I'm your boy. Try me. When do we start?" He realized he was starting to sound like a jerk.
"Sterling, be quiet and listen. You are being sent back to earth. It is your job to recognize someone with a problem and help that person solve it."
"Sent back to earth!" Sterling was dumbfounded.
The eight heads nodded in unison.
"How long will I stay?"
"As long as it takes to solve the problem."
"Does that mean if I do a good job I'll be allowed to enter heaven? I'd love to be there for Christmas."
They all looked amused. "Not so fast," the monk said. "In the jargon of the day, you have a lot of frequent flier miles to earn before you achieve permanent residence inside those holy gates. However, if you complete your first mission to our satisfaction by Christmas Eve, you will be entitled to a visitor's pass for twenty-four hours."
Sterling's heart sank a little. Oh well, he thought. Every long journey begins with one small step.
"You'd do well to remember that," the queen cautioned.
Sterling blinked. He'd have to remember they were mind readers. "How will I know the person I'm supposed to help?" he asked.
"That's part of the point of this experiment. You have to learn to recognize people's needs and do something about them," a young black woman wearing a nurse's uniform told him.
"Will I have any help? I mean, anyone I can talk to if I'm not sure what to do? I'll do anything to get the job done properly, you understand."
I'm babbling again, he thought.
"You are free at any time to request a consultation with us," the admiral assured him.
"When do I start?"
The monk pressed a button on the council table. "Right now."
Sterling felt a trap door open beneath him. In an instant he was hurtling past the stars, around the moon, through the clouds, and then suddenly whisking past a tall, brilliantly lit Christmas tree. His feet touched the earth.
"My God," Sterling breathed. "I'm in Rockefeller Center."
Copyright © 2001 by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
Marissa's dark hair cascaded around her shoulders as she twirled around the rink in Rockefeller Center. She had started taking ice-skating lessons when she was three. Now that she was seven, skating was as natural to her as breathing, and lately it had been the only thing that eased the hurt that filled her chest and throat.
The music changed, and without thinking she adjusted to the new, softer rhythm, a waltz. For a moment she pretended she was with Daddy. She could almost feel his hand linked with hers, could almost see NorNor, her grandmother, smiling at her.
Then she remembered that she really didn't want to skate with Daddy or even talk to him, or to NorNor. They had gone away, hardly saying good-bye to her. The first bunch of times they phoned she had pleaded with them to come back or to let her come visit them, but they had said that was impossible. Now when they called, she wouldn't talk to them.
She didn't care, she told herself.
But still, she closed her eyes whenever a car she was in happened to drive past NorNor's restaurant; it hurt to remember how much fun it had been to go there with Daddy. The place was always crowded, sometimes NorNor played the piano, and people always asked Daddy to sing. Sometimes they'd bring over his CD and ask him to sign the cover.
Now she never went there. She had heard Mommy tell Roy -- he was Mommy's husband now -- that without NorNor, the restaurant was really struggling and would probably have to close soon.
What did Daddy and NorNor expect when they went away? Marissa wondered. NorNor always said that unless she was there every night the place would fall on its face. "It's my living room," she used to tell Marissa. "You don't invite people over to your house and not be there."
If NorNor loved her restaurant so much, why did she go away? And if Daddy and NorNor loved her like they said, why did they leave her behind?
She hadn't seen them in almost a whole year. Christmas Eve was her birthday. She would be eight years old, and even though she still was very angry with them, she had promised God that if the bell rang on Christmas Eve and they were standing at the door, she would never be mean to anyone as long as she lived and would help Mommy with the babies and stop acting bored when Roy told the same stupid stories over and over. If it would help, she'd even promise never to skate again as long as she lived, but she knew that was a promise Daddy wouldn't want her to make, because if he ever did come back, he'd want to take her skating.
The music stopped and the skating teacher, Miss Carr, who had brought twelve students to Rockefeller Center as a special treat, motioned that it was time to go. Marissa did one final pirouette before she coasted to the exit. The minute she started to untie her laces the hurt came back. She could feel it growing around her heart and filling her chest and then rising like a tide into her throat. But though it was a struggle, she managed to keep it from pressing against her eyes.
"You're a terrific skater," one of the attendants said. "You'll be a star like Tara Lipinsky when you grow up."
NorNor used to tell her that all the time. Before she could help herself, Marissa's eyes began to blur. Turning her head so that the attendant wouldn't see that she was almost crying, she looked straight into the eyes of a man who was standing at the fence around the rink. He was wearing a funny-looking hat and coat, but he had a nice face and he was sort of smiling at her.
"Come along, Marissa," Miss Carr called, and Marissa, hearing the slightly grouchy tone in her teacher's voice, began to run to catch up with the other kids.
Copyright © 2001 by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark
Meet the Author
Mary Higgins Clark, #1 international and New York Times bestselling author, has written thirty-four suspense novels; three collections of short stories; a historical novel; two children’s books; and a memoir, Kitchen Privileges. With her daughter Carol Higgins Clark, she has coauthored five more suspense novels. Her books have sold more than 100 million copies in the United States alone.
Carol Higgins Clark is the author of the bestselling Regan Reilly mysteries. She is coauthor, along with her mother, Mary Higgins Clark, of a bestselling holiday suspense series. Also an actress, Carol Higgins Clark studied at the Beverly Hills Playhouse and has recorded several novels. She received AudioFile’s Earphones Award of Excellence for her reading of Jinxed. She lives in New York City. Her website is CarolHigginsClark.com.
- Saddle River, New Jersey and New York, New York
- Date of Birth:
- December 24, 1929
- Place of Birth:
- New York, New York
- New York University; B.A., Fordham University, 1979
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >
I really enjoyed this book. It was an easy and fast read with surprising twists.
One of my favorites that Mary Higgins Clark wrote with her daughter. It has my first name in it so I thought it was cool. Overall I loved it. They did make a movie but they didn't do it right and i suggest they try again.
This is a very nice book that leaves you with a good feeling. The story is very uniqely written. The end of the story is quite smart and I did not expect it. This is not just for the holidays although it does takes place around Christmas. I would reccomend this book. My mother read this book in one night and loved it too.
Great story line...much better than I expected. But definitely not your ordinary Christmas story. Enjoyable light read.
An intriguing title and yes, as you read further the first reaction you get is to be conscious of what you say and do for fear that it will be you one day, caught in limbo in the 'celestial waiting room' and not just a delight novel. I found it to be well written, imaginative and even comical at times. I found myself laughing out loud as Sterling contemplates life in the thereafter at certain points. Would like to actually see this completed in a different medium, maybe a movie made for television. It should definitely be captured for a station like 'Women's Entertainment - and viewed in the Cinematherapy' segment if it isn't already. 'He Sees You When You're Sleeping' is a must read. A great introduction to a wonderful writer. I'm a first time reader of Carol Higgins Clark novels, but I look forward to the next one and expect to enjoy it as immensely as I did this one.
A wonderful take on 'It's a Wonderful Life' with a little danger and mystery! I loved it! A quick and easy read, made the holidays fun! Couldn't wait for my mom to read so we could talk about how 'wonderful' the story is! A joy!
I love this friggin book!!! i read it back in middle school and its just?(*sigh*)?its amazing. :D
The Clark ladies are a formidable literary pair, often co-authoring to offer double dips of pleasure for mystery loving readers. Now, they've taken a leaf from the classic Christmas film It's A Wonderful Life and spiced it with danger. Carol Higgins Clark gives authentic voice to their story. Sterling Brooks might be everyman - except for the fact that he's in heaven's anteroom, where he's been waiting for almost 50 years for admission to heaven. In his case patience isn't his reward and the Heavenly council proposes a test for him. Sterling must return to Earth and prove his Pearly Gates eligibility by helping someone else. Where to start but Manhattan and the Rockefeller Skating rink? There he finds a woebegone seven-year-old, Marissa, whose family has been placed in the Federal Witness Protection due to the threats of the murderous Blodgett family. It is the Christmas season and Marissa is separated from those she loves. It does take some work and thought on Sterling's part but, of course, the tale has a happy ending. After all, even almost-angels have mysterious powers.
After forty-six years of sitting in the celestial waiting room right outside the gates of heaven, Sterling Brooks is finally summoned before the Heavenly Council. Eight female and male saints explain to Sterling that he did not use his time on earth performing good deeds. For the most part he remained an uncommitted and indifferent person, more interested in himself than anyone else. He is given a chance to make up for his previous failings on earth by returning there and helping a person who needs help badly. If he accomplishes his goal, he will be permitted to celebrate Christmas Eve in heaven. He appears in Rockefeller center where he meets a little girl named Marissa who wants desperately to see her father and grandmother. Unfortunately, they are in the witness protection program ready to give testimony that would send two gangsters away for life. Sterling¿s heart opens to the precious little princess and vows to reunite her with her relatives. How he goes about this and what he learns in the process might earn him a permanent place in heaven or doom him to eternal hell. Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark have created a beautiful parable that demonstrates the true meaning of the holiday spirit. HE SEES YOU WHEN YOU¿RE SLEEPING will appeal to both the mainstream audience and those readers who like a supernatural novel. The two protagonists of this beautiful story will endear themselves to everyone who reads the book. Harriet Klausner
I see you when your sleeping <p> i know when youre awake <p> i kniw if youve been bad or good <p> so be good, lts getting late...
Sterling is sent back to earth to learn how to be kind and generous. His mission is to find someone in need of assistance and if successful in helping them he will finally be allowed to enter the gates of heaven. It is a bit sappy but also touching. Well written and a quick read.
HE SEES YOU WHEN YOU¿RE SLEEPING AUTHOR: Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster REVIEWED BY: Barbara Rhoades BOOK REVIEW: This is one of the best stories I have read in ages. It is a story of an ¿almost¿ angel who is sent back to earth to help a young girl and her family. Witness protection has separated the girl from her beloved father and grandmother. With a price on their heads for what they have heard, they are unable to come home for Marissa¿s birthday. Sterling, the ¿almost¿ angel, is sent to help Marrissa. Since he was a rather selfish person on earth and the Heavenly Council wants Sterling to provide he is worthy of entering the Heavenly Gates. I had a very hard time putting this book down. Mary Higgins Clark is the reader and I believe that adds to the telling of the story, as she is co-author. Knowing the way the story should be told helps in reading it to others. This is a wonderful tale of one person helping another and the wonders that can occur when we are willing to come to the aid of others.
Mary and Carol have done it again. A wonderful Christmas book to get you in the spirit of the season.
I picked up a few Christmas-themed books to read during the holidays and this one was probably the most disappointing to me. The premise is unique and the build up kept me turning the pages but the ending was rather weak - as if the authors ran out of time and just threw it together to be done with it. Luckily, it's a short and easy read and I didn't invest too much time into it.
If I had to name my ten favorite plots from books, this one would not be on my list. It begins with Sterling Brooks, who died and was waiting to be admitted into heaven. After being judged, because of the self-centered life that he had lived, he was sent back to Earth to prove that he was worthy of his wings. His task was to locate someone who needed help, and to help them. After finding the heartbroken girl he was supposed to help, and, (with help from the Heavenly Council), going back in time to learn more about how her heart came to be broken, devises a plan that he thinks will bring back the girl's smile. The first part of the book was about Sterling Brooks, and how he had been waiting in the Celestial Waiting Room, which was right outside of the heavenly gates, for forty-six years to get admission into heaven. It also talks about the Heavenly Council, (the saints that judged him), and what each of them looked like. Although every other book by Mary Higgins Clark that I have read was great; I did not really enjoy this one. The plot seemed totally different to anything she has ever written before, and was not one of those books that ¿put you on the edge of your seat.¿ This is more of a heart-warming book, rather than suspenseful, which is most of Mary Higgins Clark's work. One reason I did not like this book was because of all of the things they said about heaven. I believe in heaven, but if I am going to read a book that talks about it a lot, I would like for it to be based upon facts, not opinions or fictitious thoughts. On the other hand, I did like the way that Sterling handled the situation. He knew what Marissa, the girl he was helping, needed. She needed to see her family again, and she needed a friend. Sterling was a great friend to her, and knew that he had to help her. He got the information he needed to solve the problem, and then came up with a great plan that he thought would solve it. Because of his selfish ways before, Sterling did not realize that he would have so much fun helping people, but he later learned that it was in him all along. Although I liked some aspects of this book, for the most part, I did not enjoy it. This is the first of Mary Higgins Clark's books that I did not love. I would highly recommend her other books, and others may enjoy this one immensely, but it isn't a book that I would recommend.
If I had to name my ten favorite plots from books, this one would not be on my list. It begins with Sterling Brooks, who died and was waiting to be admitted into heaven. After being judged, because of the self-centered life that he had lived, he was sent back to Earth to prove that he was worthy of his wings. His task was to locate someone who needed help, and to help them. After finding the heartbroken girl he was supposed to help, and, (with help from the Heavenly Council), going back in time to learn more about how her heart came to be broken, devises a plan that he thinks will bring back the girl's smile. (112) Although every other book by Mary Higgins Clark that I have read was great; I did not really enjoy this one. The plot seemed totally different to anything she has ever written before, and was not one of those books that ¿put you on the edge of your seat.¿ This is more of a heart-warming book, rather than suspenseful, which is most of Mary Higgins Clark's work. One reason I did not like this book was because of all of the things they said about heaven. I believe in heaven, but if I am going to read a book that talks about it a lot, I would like for it to be based upon facts, not opinions or fictitious thoughts. Although I liked some aspects of this book, for the most part, I did not enjoy it. This is the first of Mary Higgins Clark's books that I did not love. I would highly recommend her other books, and others may enjoy this one immensely, but it isn't a book that I would recommend.