Tag Archives: rebecca serle

IN FIVE YEARS by Rebecca Serle

When Rebecca Serle’s novel In Five Years opens, NYC corporate lawyer Danielle and her banker boyfriend David get engaged, just as Dannie expected they would, the latest step in her meticulously planned life. But later that night, Dannie has a dream that takes place five years later, in which she is living (and sleeping with) a different man in a different apartment. Will that dream accurately reflect her future reality, and if so, how does she get from the present to that future?

Why I picked it up: I didn’t love Rebecca Serle’s last novel, The Dinner List, but the premise of In Five Years was irresistible and the reviews were very positive.

I really enjoyed In Five Years. It’s a quick read, because it’s pretty short and it’s hard to put down. Dannie’s life unfolds, her career skyrocketing and her relationship with David enduring… but with no actual wedding in sight. Dannie’s best friend Bella, meanwhile, falls in and out of love, taking a much more circuitous route forward than Dannie’s straight line trajectory. Dannie and Bella’s friendship plays a central role in In Five Years, highlighting the differences in how the two approach their lives but providing them with the constant presence that a deep, enduring friendship does. Bella challenges Danni to question whether she should stay on her planned track or give in to the impulses that might lead her to the future she envisioned in her dream.

In Five Years is reminiscent of a few other books I’ve read: One Day In December (girl falls in love with man who ends up being her best friend’s boyfriend); You Were There Too (man recurs in woman’s dreams); and The Immortalists, whose author Chloe Benjamin blurbed this book (siblings learn of the predicted dates of their deaths), but it still felt fresh and original. I also liked the depiction of Bella and Danni’s friendship. The plot took a few unexpected turns, which kept me quite engaged.

If you didn’t love The Dinner List, I’d recommend giving Serle another chance and picking up In Five Years. You’ll read it in like two days, and you’ll be glad you did.

In Five Years was Book #8 of 2020. It comes out on March 10.

THE DINNER LIST by Rebecca Serle

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle opens with its main character, Sabrina, walking into her birthday dinner and finding 5 guests waiting for her: her best friend Jessica, her ex-boyfriend Tobias, her late, estranged father Robert, her favorite college professor Conrad, and Audrey Hepburn. This list of guests came from a game she used to play with Jessica: which five people would you invite to a dinner party?

Sabrina has unfinished business with some of the guests. When he died, she hadn’t seen her father since she was an infant, and had been angry at him for years for his abandonment and for moving on with a new family and daughters. She also feels abandoned by Jessica, with whom she had lived in New York City in their twenties but who has graduated to a house in Connecticut with a husband and a new baby. And most complicated is her relationship with Tobias, a man she was involved with for almost a decade but with whom she is no longer together. The Dinner List goes back and forth between the conversation at the restaurant and the recounting of Sabrina and Tobias’ relationship.

I am not really a fan of magical realism, so the suspension of belief needed to accept that Sabrina was at dinner with dead people didn’t come easily to me. The dinner conversation is strange, of course, given the company at the table and the circumstance of their gathering. I preferred the chapters that told Sabrina and Tobias’ history: a typical twentysomething relationship with its ups and downs as they tried to make lives for themselves that worked for each other too. The book is full of sadness , as Sabrina tries to work through the ways her relationships changed over time, ultimately disappointing her and leaving her feeling alone. The inclusion of Conrad and Audrey Hepburn seemed gimmicky to me. Neither added much to Sabrina’s understanding and acceptance of the turns her relationships took – especially Audrey – so while the dinner list idea was cute, it didn’t actually contribute much to the story in the end.

The Dinner List is not a light read. It’s a bittersweet story about accepting that the people we love aren’t always who we want them to be, nor can we always be who we want for them. Life is full of loss and disappointment; the best we can do is appreciate the moments and people we have for the time we have them.

I started The Dinner List on audio and DO NOT recommend it. It’s narrated by the author, and while she can write, she can’t narrate. Each character was performed in the exact same breathless, monotone. I read a review that said that the audio reminded the reviewer of a writing student sitting in the front of the room reading her story out loud. YES. I switched to the print copy about halfway through the audiobook and it made a HUGE difference in my enjoyment of the book. So if you’re tempted to do this on audio, don’t.