A Better World: A Novel

A Better World: A Novel

This is an excerpt from Sarah Langan's forthcoming novel A Better World.

The Sinking Ship

“Some people aren’t suited. It’s nothing personal,” Jack Lust said. “They’re simply a wrong fit.”

This guy was a clown. The creepy kind. Linda Farmer didn’t like him, but she smiled at him because she had to.

“For instance,” Jack said. He enunciated every syllable like a dis- appointed preschool teacher. “Character is paramount. When we hire people who are going to live in our town, mix with our top-level exec- utives, become top level, we need to know they’ll behave.”

Linda nodded as if to say: We have character! We ooze character!

“You’ll have no cause for concern with us,” Linda’s husband, Rus- sell, said. They were sitting together on the sunken couch, looking up at Jack Lust in the high wingback chair like a couple of kids who’d been caught doing something bad.

“Our community is small and like minded. We prefer collaborative types. It’s counterintuitive: to get to this place that you’re at today, an interview for a coveted company job in a jewel like Plymouth Valley, you must outshine all your competition,” Jack said. His bespoke black suit hugged his bony body like shrink-wrap. Linda pegged him at a vim and vigorous seventy-five years old. Cosmetic surgery, healthy living, clean air—company town people kept it tight. Nobody in their seventies looked this good on the outside.

Jack was accompanied by a small entourage of likewise elegant men, none of whom he’d introduced. Two appeared to be taking notes and two were security, waiting outside the Farmer-Bowens’ apartment door. Linda hadn’t checked—this had all moved too fast—but she suspected that the leather straps across their chests held pregnant holsters.

“But once you’re in Plymouth Valley, you must be a team player,” Jack said. His primness, his perfect posture and absence of expression, vibed to her like contained rage. This was a huge leap in all logic—it definitely wasn’t true—but he reminded Linda of one of those guys you hear about on the news streamies, who murder people in weird, excessively neat ways. They lure the random unhoused into their lairs, then exsanguinate and store their blood in jars on their freezer doors. They sneak incrementally larger arsenic doses into a friend’s tea over months and years, just to watch with secret pleasure as their hair and teeth fall out. But she was thinking this only because she was nervous. This three-piece-suited company shill had a lot of power over her life. Her family needed for Russell to land this job. My God, they needed this job.


Reprinted with permission from Atria Books. You can learn more about Sarah and her work here.