Title: In Five Years
Author: Rebecca Serle
Publication date: March 10, 2020
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Perfect for fans of Me Before You and One Day—a striking, powerful, and moving love story following an ambitious lawyer who experiences an astonishing vision that could change her life forever.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting 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.
Brimming with joy and heartbreak, In Five Years is an unforgettable love story that reminds us of the power of loyalty, friendship, and the unpredictable nature of destiny.
Excuse me, I need to go dry my eyes for a minute before I can put any thoughts down about this book. There. I’m ready.
In Five Years crept up on me and hit me in my heart. It’s not the book I thought it was going to be, and that’s perfectly okay, because I ended up blown away by how deeply it made me feel.
At the same time, I don’t want to spoil anything for any potential readers, so I’m going to have to keep my comments on the vague side.
You mistake love. You think it has to have a future in order to matter, but it doesn’t. It’s the only thing that does not need to become at all. It matters only insofar as it exists. Here. Now. Love doesn’t require a future.
This is not a time-travel story. There is no magical entry into parallel worlds. Yes, Dannie has a weird experience that puts her five years into the future for a brief hour — but call it vision or premonition or whatever you want, I promise that that’s not the point of the story.
The main character of In Five Years is Dannie, a super smart, super successful lawyer who measures out her life in plans and lists and spreadsheets. Her boyfriend David is just like her (even keeping a spreadsheet of restaurants they’ve visited and what they ate), and their future is nicely mapped out. They’ll achieve success in their incredibly competitive fields. They’ll buy a great apartment in a great neighborhood in New York. And after Dannie’s interview with the law firm of her dreams, they get engaged in the perfect setting… so they seem very much on track for their neatly planned out lives.
Until Dannie dozes off and has her strange, five-years-into-the-future experience, where she interacts with a man — not David — in such an intimate and emotional way that, when she wakes, she begins to question everything.
Four and a half years later, Dannie and David are still engaged, but never quite get around to planning a wedding. She’s working at her dream job and absolutely loving it. And then things get weird when her best-friend-for-life Bella introduces her to the new man in her life… and he’s the man from Dannie’s dream/vision/premonition.
But if you think that this is a love triangle sort of book, let me just tell you — it’s not.
The further along I read, the more I understood that the heart of this book is the love between friends. Dannie and Bella are perfect complements to one another — Bella free-spirited and artistic and spontaneous, all things that Dannie is not. But they love each other unstintingly and understand each other deeply, and as the story unfolds from here, their love absolutely shines in a way that’s beautiful and left me in tears.
There. I’m not saying anything further about the plot. I’ll just say that it surprised me and moved me; it wasn’t what I expected, and it completely pulled me in and wouldn’t let me go until I turned the last page.
On a lighter note, two things struck me as funny. One, a seeming inconsistency that made me giggle:
David was snoring next to me, and the upstairs was still, but then it was barely six.
And on the next page:
David is a silent sleeper. No snoring, no movement.
Hmm. I don’t think those can both be true. (But honestly, this is truly a minor quibble, and I only mention it because it made me laugh and broke up the intensity of the story for me, which was a good thing.)
I also loved a couple of little throw-away lines that made me feel like Dannie and I are inhabiting the same world:
Murray Hill isn’t the most glamorous neighborhood in New York, and it gets a bad rap (every Jewish fraternity and sorority kid in the Tri-State area moves here after graduation. The average street style is a Penn sweatshirt)…
Hee. My alma mater rarely gets a shout-out in the books I read. And one more thing that felt like me:
I change into shorts and a T-shirt and a sun hat — my Russian Jew skin has never met a sun it particularly got on with…
Story of my life, Dannie.
But back to being serious…
I loved Rebecca Serle’s previous novel, The Dinner List, and in some ways, I can see some general similarities. Both feature an out-of-the-ordinary twist in the set-up, and in both, it’s the emotional heart of the story that really matters, not the how and why of the strange twist.
In Five Years is a gorgeous, surprising, and emotionally powerful read. Highly recommended.
[And a brief note: When I look at the reviews on Goodreads, I see so much detail about the plot. I recommend reading this book without a lot of foreknowledge, so stay away from Goodreads if that matters to you!]