In Five Years
By: Rebecca Serle
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Rating: 5/5 beakers
I used to think that the present determined the future. That if I worked hard, and long, I’d get the things I wanted. The job, the apartment, the life. That the future was simply a mound of clay waiting to be told by the present, what form to take. But that isn’t true. It can’t be.
Dannie Cohan’s life is following her plan–lawyer in Manhattan, new fiancé, same best friend–and she’s not going to let some strange but disturbingly real dream of the future derail her. Even if that dream finds her in bed with an unknown man five years down the line. Even if that man is introduced as her best friend’s new boyfriend only a few months before her dream was meant to occur in real life. It takes an unexpected revelation to finally upend Dannie’s plans, and suddenly her life and her plan are changed forever. In Five Years is a story about friendship, letting go, and finding your true path.
In Five Years was not the book I was expecting it to be. I was expecting a time-slip romance, with Dannie trying to figure out what changes so drastically in her life plan for her to wake up next to an unknown man five years in the future. But although this was still a story about love in a different way, it was much more heartbreaking than the contemporary romantic comedies I’ve been relying on to get me through this quarantine.
That’s not to say I didn’t like this book–I gave it 5 beakers, after all. Serle does a fantastic job of setting up Dannie’s life: New York to the core, new job on the horizon, newly engaged, determined and hardworking and so very strict. Her fiancé, David, is the same way, but her best friend, Bella, is more of a free spirit, and the relationship between Dannie and Bella is more like sisters than best friends. The two have relied deeply on each other for years, so it’s completely shocking to Dannie when the mystery man she encountered in her dream of the future turns out to be Bella’s new boyfriend. Dannie is horrified at the thought that she would ever sleep with her best friend’s boyfriend and instead sets out down the path that will ensure such a thing never happens. Or so she believes. The best laid plans of mice and men and all that. Instead, Dannie’s plan are derailed in the worst way possible, and she must soon decide whether it’s more important to stick to her plan or to live the life she’s truly meant to live.
I absolutely loved following Dannie’s journey from a Type-A workaholic to someone who realizes that she can chase her dreams without having to forego everything else. Serle did a great job of making Dannie’s transformation feel utterly believable, and at the end of the book, although Dannie is changed, she’s still very much herself. I appreciate that Dannie wasn’t made to completely abandon her personality because of the journey she’s undertaken but instead was allowed to grow and become a more well-rounded individual. Serle also does a great job making both Dannie and Bella flawed characters, with those flaws becoming more and more evident as the two women’s goals deviate. The clever use of these flaws really helps the story hit all the needed emotional beats; the narrative naturally flows from sheer joy and happiness to shock and horror and finally to acceptance and celebration, and while that doesn’t make the story any less horrible (in a good way), it makes this book feel heartbreakingly realistic.
Although some of the story was predictable, there was still enough uncertainty to keep the story moving and to keep the reader invested in Dannie’s story. There’s the continued question of how Dannie ends up in bed with Bella’s boyfriend, after all. It’s interesting that there’s never any real answer as to why Dannie had the dream in the first place, but the ‘why’ of why it happened is less relevant to the plot than the fact that it did and that it serves as an impetus to get Dannie out of her stagnation. I loved the way Serle tied the dream back in at the end, and although the dialogue felt a little more forced the second time around, it was interesting to see how the same conversation could change so much.
I agree with a lot of other reviewers that the blurb for In Five Years is a bit misleading, because while it’s categorized as chick-lit, this is really a story that could resonate with anyone. The themes of friendship and loss and uncertainty are themes everyone can relate to, and the fact that it happens between two women is irrelevant. Dannie and Bella’s relationship is just the absolute best kind of friendship, and their trials demonstrate that difficult times can deepen friendships just as easily as it can break them. Additionally, Dannie’s transformation shows that sometimes we lock ourselves into a particular path and that it takes the perspective of someone close to us to show us how we’re cheating ourselves out of better things. In Five Years is a wonderful written story of friendship and loss that will make you laugh, cry, and appreciate your very best friends.