In Five Years: A Novel,
by Rebecca Serle
Publication: Atria Books; March 10, 2020
About: Where do you see yourself in five years?
When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan 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.
So, I just flew through In Five Years, starting it about 9 this morning and finishing it by noon. This was an interesting and engaging novel, although it went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting. Dannie is an attorney interviewing for a corporate law position at her dream firm in New York City. Also, she knows that she will get engaged later that evening to her boyfriend David. During her interview she is asked the age-old question, “where do you see yourself in five years,” to which she gives her thoughtfully planned out response regarding her career, life, etc. But that evening after the excitement of the day, she falls asleep and experiences an amazingly realistic dream where, five years from now, she is with a different man named Aaron in a completely different apartment. Dannie often thinks about the dream and the man, but then 4 1/2 years later she meets her best friend, Bella, for dinner and to meet her new boyfriend. That new boyfriend is Aaron, from her dream years ago.
Dannie is a very career-driven, never tires, planning sort of a person. Her love of all things planned and mapped out combined with the fact that 4 1/2 years later she and David had not yet gotten married were my first hints that something was not right. Well, that and the beginning of the novel where Dannie experiences her dream about Aaron. My first thoughts once we have gotten to the year 2025 and she is not married to David were, “o.k. so she will meet Aaron in real life, realize she doesn’t love David, and she and Aaron will live happily ever after.” Wrong.
That’s not at all how anything goes, however, I can’t share any of that because it will spoil until the entire novel. What I will say, however, is that the main theme of this novel is friendship. Dannie and Bella’s lifelong friendship is at the forefront of the plot the entire time. The problem is, I’m not sure how I felt about their friendship. They were incredibly different with Dannie being responsible and career-driven as to where Bella just kind of floated around the world, traveling, being artistic, and falling in and out of love. Which is fine, opposites attract and all. But at times I just couldn’t buy into their undying, decades-long best friendship.
About 30-40% into this novel the movie Something Borrowed popped into my head about best friends Rachel and Darcy. In this book, Dannie was Rachel and Bella was Darcy. It just didn’t seem natural. Nevertheless, the bulk of the book is about these two women, their friendship, their struggles, and ultimately with Dannie, the realization that she needs to be honest with herself about how she feels and what she wants in her life.
Although there are some extreme Kleenex-worthy moments in this book, I finished it with positive feelings overall and truly enjoyed reading it. I will warn you that this finishes very open-ended. There’s no definite love-connection or life plan at the conclusion. However, I feel it appropriate as Dannie was always so obsessed with numbers, timeframes, and plans only to learn that she never factored in surprises, twists and turns, and most importantly – a change of heart. I recommend this one to fans of women’s fiction with strong themes surrounding women’s friendship, but don’t go into this with one thinking you know how it will all play out, because the story and ending are very unexpected.
*Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing this review copy in exchange for my honest opinion!