Updated: Sep 15
It’s such an innocent question. Where do you see yourself in five years? The layers of intention that hide between those words is infinitely confounding. The possibilities are boundless, or are they? Do we have control over our destiny, or has the universe already carved out our fate for us? Perhaps it’s a fragile combination of the two.
The last paragraph makes clear why this novel intrigued me, from the moment when I first read the synopsis to now, after I’ve turned the final page and have all these thoughts colliding with each other in my mind. And questions. Lots of questions.
I recently ran across an advertisement for a writing class offered by the writer Joyce Carol Oates. Stick with me, this comes full circle. She shared that there are two ways to tell a story: you can be transparent and feel as though you’ve melted into the words, thoughts, and beliefs of a character. Or you can tell it through language, where the words and the way they sound form the enjoyment in a narrative. This novel does both, and well.
Ms. Serle’s character depictions, especially the protagonist Dannie written in first person, is superbly executed. I feel her plight and sense the tension and chaos swirling inside her head throughout the story. She knows something no one else does and sharing that with her as a reader creates an intimate connection that helps us identify with what she’s feeling. And it doesn’t hurt that I also share a bunch of Dannie’s tendencies outside of this fictional world. But then, the author takes that immersive aura and complements with turns of phrase and analogies that are poetically beautiful, both to read aloud and imagine in our collective visions.
And while these elements in and of themselves make this story a success, it’s those questions that keep tumbling in my mind that hold my attention, long after finishing the final page. And that’s what makes a good book great. It helps you, not only by escaping and navigating a fictional reality through the eyes of another person, but also by lending a hand to analyze/dissect/understand your place in the non-fictional world counterpart.
The reviews for this story are all over the place and I can completely understand why. It is not a traditional romance. But it is a love story. And while this departure from the norm might disappoint some readers, it is exactly what made this a treasure for me. It is what I aim to do with my own stories, find a different perspective to explore, dive deep into an emotional pool, and swim back to the surface, discovering a hopeful ending that might also be happy when left to the imagination of the reader. I commend Rebecca for taking a plunge into these turbulent and deep waters, especially in the adept way that she has done so.
This is most definitely an unforgettable love story. It’s just not the love story you were expecting. Perfectly stated. And while the ending might surprise you, I suspect that a bit of time and reflection will help you appreciate it. And while those two words, appreciation and enjoyment, might not be synonymous, that deep-felt appreciation is what ultimately elevated my enjoyment, before, during, and after reading it.
Like one of the main characters, Bella, this novel is a touch of magical and a sprinkle of mercurial. And the mix of those two coupled with Ms. Serle’s storytelling prowess makes “In Five Years” a favorite on my shelf and one I will come back to again and again, when I want to explore those complicated questions that challenge the delicate balance between choice and destiny. Or just to visit a beautiful love story again. Probably both.
Dave’s Rating: ☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️
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