Editorial note: I received a copy of In Five Years in exchange for a review.
In Five Years by Rebecca Serle is a moving story that will stick with you long after you finish the last page.
There are some authors that write books that truly get to you on a deeper level. Rebecca Serle is definitely that author for me. Her previous novel The Dinner List is such a beautiful story about love and loss. It was by far one of my favorites in recent years. She takes an interesting style of authentic, real emotions with a bit of whimsical qualities that truly make her novels stand apart.
So I had extremely high expectations for In Five Years. And she more than delivered—honestly, not sure which one made more emotional because they are both so profound but for different reasons. Even though In Five Years is on the shorter side (250 pages), there’s so much that happens where the length does feel just right.
First, the synopsis:
In Five Years follows Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan as she nails an important job interview and then accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal. Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.
But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.
After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.
That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.
Right off the bat, I knew this would be a fantastic book club book, which is why it’s listed on my mega book club picks for 2020 list. There’s just so much to discuss with as this story unfolds in so many unexpected directions. I don’t want to give anything away but I had an idea of where the story would go and I was completely wrong. I’m really curious about what you all think!
Dannie is an interesting protagonist; she’s quite smart and believes she has her entire life already mapped out. But a dream/vision/nightmare/what have you—completely changes her course forever and starts to impact every decision she makes in the present.
On a more ground level scale, I think many people can relate to having a plan and watching it completely fall apart. And the key is how one picks themselves back up when life takes a different direction.
A hint of magical realism
Something that I really like about Rebecca’s stories is that she centers her novels around interesting questions. In The Dinner List, the question is if you could gather the people you love—dead or alive—who would be on your list and why? In Five Years tackles that stereotypical job question, where do you see yourself in five years? It’s such a clever way to craft a story and it does give her a little more freedom to add a bit of magical realism to the stories—not a lot by any means—but just enough to set the story apart from other contemporary fiction ones.
A story about friendship
By far the strongest relationship in the book is between Dannie and her best friend Bella. They are as different as can be but they both help bring out the best qualities in each other. I love stories about female friendships—they truly make for some of the stronger stories out there and we don’t see them publish as much as I would like. The friendship in this story is really touching and felt so authentic.
Final review thoughts: a heartfelt love story that will no doubt make you cry and want to call your loved ones.
Check out my book club questions here.
Tuesday 2nd of February 2021
I didn’t like this book on first read (literally threw my phone [where I was reading the eBook] across the room at the ending), I’ve been drawn back to it repeatedly. I think my initial dislike of it was the fact that I wanted the magical-realism part of it to be true, and I found the end unsatisfying. However, during follow-on reads I’ve enjoyed reading the duality of that scene in the apartment both times it happens — and how well the author leads us to different conclusions depending on our mental framework at the time.
I know several reviewers tout this as a “strong female relationship” book, but I found that part a little bit contrived...the “poor little rich girl in Manhattan” is boring to me, so I found the “interview question” of the book and her exploration of her answer over time to be more compelling.
Friday 9th of April 2021
I had mixed feelings at first and it took me some time to write the review to really think about how I felt with this one. I think there are some basic components (poor little rich girl in NYC like you mentioned) but I did think it was interesting that we believe one thing about the entire story and it turns out to be about something else (trying to avoid spoilers lol).