Home from her engagement dinner, Dannie falls asleep. There, in the only element of magical realism in the book, she has a dream. In that dream, it’s five years later, which she knows from seeing the news on TV. She wakes up in a strange bed, in a strange apartment. There’s a stranger in the apartment with her, Aaron. He seems to know her but she doesn’t remember him. Even more strangely, all her clothes are in the closet so it’s her place, and he has a set of clothes in the dresser.
Dannie cannot make sense of what’s happening but she feels a connection with this man. After a dinner of pasta and pesto, she tries to leave the apartment but he asks her to stay. They share some wine and then end up in bed together. She feels a depth of feeling that she has never felt before, even with David.
In Five Years is a contemporary romance by Rebecca Searle, printed in March 2020. This post is full of spoilers. If you are looking for a review without spoilers, you can find it here.
Dannie tells no one of her dream except her therapist. She tried to make sense of it but without luck.
Then Bella invites Dannie to go to a double date dinner to meet her boyfriend Greg. Bella and Dannie have been friends since childhood. Bella grew up in a rich family but her parents were emotionally distant. She and Dannie became fast friends when they met and Bella spent a lot of time at Dannie’s home. They are as close as sisters. Bella is much more free-spirited than Dannie when it comes to love and she seems to be moving quite quickly with Greg. Dannie is worried for her but finally agrees to meet Greg.
Greg is Aaron. It turns out that Aaron is his middle name. Feigning illness a few minutes into the dinner, Dannie escapes with David and they go home.
Dannie decides to go for a run to Dumbo to figure out which apartment she might have been in during her dream. She ends up running into Aaron who is on an errand for Bella. She has sent him to look at an apartment for her, and he invites Dannie along. Dannie goes and recognizes the place from her dreams, although it doesn’t look like that now. Aaron is an architect and can imagine how the place could be redone. His ideas match watch she saw in the dream.
Running from a Dream
Dannie’s been acting strange since she met Aaron but he is a nice guy and they get along well when she’s not resisting his friendship. But meeting him throws her into a tailspin. It’s been over 4 years since the engagement and they’ve never managed to find time to get engaged. Suddenly, Dannie feels a need to plan the wedding to happen quickly, even though she’s busy with work, even though it might be hard to find a wedding planner and location. She’s still trying to avoid the dream from coming true.
Then Bella falls sick with ovarian cancer. It’s already at stage three. She has surgery and chemo with Dr. Shaw as her oncologist. Both Aaron and Dannie are there for her, and her mother Jill shows up to help as well. When Bella bans Dannie from coming to her treatments after a fight over how controlling Dannie is, Dannie still comes to the hospital during her chemo treatments but stays downstairs. She gets updates from Aaron, and when he calls to tell her that the treatment is not working, she gets him to ask Bella if she wants her to be there. Bella says yes.
When she meets Bella, she finds out that Bella and Aaron are engaged. (Why didn’t she recognize the ring from her dream?) For the first time, she and Bella have a frank conversation about love. Bella tells her that she’s not in love with David. When Dannie resists, saying that she’s not built for that kind of love, Bella tells her that she is because that’s the love between the two of them:
I wish you understood that you could have love beyond your wildest dreams.Bella, speaking to Dannie
While dealing with a wedding and being there for Bella, Dannie is also excelling at work. She gets a big contract after demonstrating her abilities in a case with one of the partners.
Plans Fall Apart
Dannie and David meet for dinner after her big contract. She starts talking about the wedding and then says maybe they should postpone it. She sees relief and confirmation in his eyes. Then, he asks her if she really wants to get married. She says yes and they let the conversation drop.
It’s one week later when David brings up the conversation again. This time he tells her that he is sick of being in her life but not her heart. He accuses her of not really wanting to marry him and she doesn’t argue. She agrees to leave their apartment.
Dannie moves in with Bella and by the time she goes back to get her stuff, it’s all gone from David’s. When she calls Aaron, he asks her to meet him at the apartment. Upstairs, he welcomes her home, the new home that Bella prepared for her. All the details are the same, including the hanging canvas, her birthday gift which read “I was young I needed the money”. This is her dream coming true, and she and Aaron kiss before pulling away. Aaron leaves, and when she goes to her closet, there is an outfit from Bella, the one she will wear to her funeral.
When Bella stops treatment, Dr. Shaw explains what will happen next. Speaking to Jill, accusing her of not caring for Bella, she learns that Jill played matchmaker for her and Bella as children. She realized that she didn’t know the things she thought she knew, that her memory was fallible. Jill and Dannie and Aaron surround Bella and take care of her along with the nurse.
Bella dies with her mother and her nurse nearby, Aaron in the next room, Dannie at the apartment. Jill plans a funeral but then Aaron and Dannie decide to honor Bella. They have a celebration of her life on a rooftop, reading things that she would have liked and
Aaron goes to Dumbo with Dannie, to her apartment. When she wakes up from a nap, he is there, the dream plays out.
The Ending of In Five Years
As they part, Aaron and Dannie say that they will keep in touch, that maybe they will become friends. The big feeling from her dream wasn’t just love, it was also grief. The ring she is wearing is not hers; it’s Bella’s and on her middle finger. She gave it back to Aaron.
Later that day, Dannie goes across the street to the deli. Before she can order, Dr. Shaw walks in. They stay in the deli together, Dannie and Mark, sipping coffee. He will walk her home and she will agree to perhaps meet him at the deli again.
The book starts telling us what will happen in 5 years. It ends by telling us what will happen in 1 hour.
Making Sense of the Story
Dannie is a kind of superwoman, able to be there for her friend, get promoted in her career, and plan for a wedding. This seems a bit unrealistic, tied up in the fairy tale that you can have it all without sacrificing anything. This is the balance fallacy. Yet, even with my criticisms, I’m going to recommend any book that can make me laugh and cry. In Five Years did that, and I recommend it wholeheartedly despite my questions about it:
- Why was she confused in her dream? Was she not in the dream but watching herself in the dream, split in two and not able to see into the mind of her future self?
- Why are the clean sweatpants from when Aaron worked on the apartment in a drawer? Do people do that?
- Didn’t Dannie recognize Bella’s ring from her dream?