“Where do you see yourself in five years?” This is a question that almost everyone has been asked at some point in their life. It may give us pause. We may think we know. But the answer we give is always a guess because no one really knows what the future holds. Rebecca Serle’s novel plays with that question as she explores just how wrong we can be with our answer, and the fact that it may not necessarily be a bad thing.
Dannie Kohan is a young woman who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. Her life is progressing exactly as she has planned. She has the perfect boyfriend, David, and he just proposed. She just had an interview with the law firm of her dreams that went really, really well. Dannie knows she is going to get the job. Soon, she and David will get married and, shortly after that, she will be well on her way to making partner at her new firm. Then, one night she wakes up and finds herself five years in the future and in bed with someone other than David. The experience only lasts an hour but it shakes Dannie. Was it her imagination? Is she going crazy? She is terrified to find out the source of this odd encounter. She hides it from everyone, including her best friend Bella, whom she has known since they were both young children. Soon she dismisses the experience as a dream or fantasy and continues to pursue the life for which she has worked and planned. Four and a half years later, Bella introduces Dannie to her new boyfriend: it is the man she was in bed with during her foray into the future. As a result, Dannie begins to question her plans, her decisions and everything that she has done in her life so far…
In Five Years, Serle, author of 2018’s excellent The Dinner List explores issues of life, death, love, loss, and grief. She deftly uses familiar tropes and molds them into a story that is simultaneously unique and universal. It is also quite surprising. Readers may feel at the beginning that they know where Serle is heading. Chances are,they will find out they are wrong.
The characters populating Serle’s novel are familiar and relatable, and they are all living a fantasy version of a New York City filled with great food, restaurants, stores and views of the city that most of us will never have the chance to experience (just as we will never have the opportunity to experience an hour into our future). Serle illustrates that what is important is how we deal with the events in our lives that threaten our well-made plans, whether it is a brief glimpse into the near future or one of those life-altering realities that upend our best laid plans, affecting both us and those about whom we care most. In Serle’s hands this dichotomy between fantasy and reality works brilliantly as she weaves a tale about the duality of feeling and the harsh fact that if you can’t feel pain you are probably unable to truly experience joy. This novel stresses the need for us to do the best we can with the time we are given, and that often will include ignoring those lifetime plans, which we do not want to let go of.
Read an interview with Rebecca Serle here.