The Quick Recap and Section-by-Section Summary for In Five Years by Rebecca Serle are below. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.
For a non-spoiler version of the plot synopsis, see The Bibliofile's review of In Five Years by Rebecca Serle.
Dannie Kohan is a successful corporate lawyer living in Manhattan in December 15, 2020. Her lifelong best friend, Bella, wishes her luck for her interview at a very prestigious firm. Dannie aces it. Afterwards, her investment banker boyfriend David takes her out to celebrate and proposes.
That night, Dannie dreams of a vision of herself five years in the future, December 15, 2025. She's in a Brooklyn apartment she doesn't recognize and she's engaged to a man, Aaron, she's never met before. She feels something overwhelming towards him, and Dannie realizes that she loves this man. They have sex.
When she wakes, Dannie is back in 2020. Dannie starts her new job. Life goes on, though the dream hangs in her mind. By June 2025, David is now working at a hedge fund, Dannie will be up for partnership soon at the firm and Bella now owns a gallery. However, David and Dannie are still unmarried. And when Bella introduces Dannie to her new flame, Dannie recognizes that it is Aaron from her dream. Moreover, when Aaron shows Dannie the Brooklyn loft apartment he and Bella are considering buying, Dannie recognizes it as the one from her dream -- albeit in need of renovation.
Afraid to let her dream come true, Dannie tells David that she's ready to get married. They decide on December for their wedding and start planning. Meanwhile, Bella and Aaron are getting serious. At the beach one day, Dannie and Aaron share a moment, but then Bella soon finds out she's pregnant. Aaron is delighted.
However, Bella goes to the doctor and it turns out to be ovarian cancer, which can cause false positives in pregnancy tests. Dannie is heartbroken for her friend, who she loves deeply. Bella's parents are very wealthy and provide for her financially, but were never there for Bella. Instead, she relied on Dannie and Dannie's family.
As Bella goes through surgery and starts chemo, both Dannie and Aaron are there for her. Things look promising. But when Bella ends up buying the Brooklyn loft, Dannie begs her to not live there and tells her to sell it off, trying to avoid her vision becoming reality. Bella and Dannie get into an argument over Dannie's over-protectiveness, but when Bella received bad test results, they make up.
Bella and Aaron get engaged. Afterwards, Bella warns Dannie that maybe David isn't the guy for her. When Dannie suggests postponing the wedding, David gets irate and soon calls it off. Dannie moves in with Bella, though she is increasingly weak from chemo. In early December, Aaron surprises Dannie with the Brooklyn loft that he and Bella have renovated so she can live in. It looks exactly as it had in Dannie's dream. As she and Aaron stand there, they end up kissing, but he quickly pulls away and leaves.
Bella's health deteriorates quickly. When Bella tells Dannie that she's sad that Dannie has never known real love and heartbreak, Dannie thinks of Bella and her dying and Dannie knows that isn't true. Dannie also encourages Bella's mother, Jill, to be there for her. Bella passes away a few days later with her mother at her side. The funeral is on December 15, 2025. Afterwards, Dannie and Aaron go back to her new apartment, and the scene from her vision plays out exactly. Dannie realizes that the overwhelming she had felt in her dream was not love at all, but grief. They hug and he leaves.
Afterwards, Dannie goes to the deli nearby and runs into Bella's surgeon and doctor, Dr. Mark Shaw, who she has gotten to know. Dannie notices how handsome he is. He walks her home and he he asks if he can see her sometime when she's ready, and Dannie thinks that she will perhaps say yes.
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Chapters 1 – 2
It’s December 15, 2020. Danielle “Dannie” Kohan, 28, a corporate lawyer, is interviewing today at Wachtell, a very prestigious law firm. Her boyfriend, David, is an investment banker at Tishman Speyer. They live in an upscale building in Murray Hill. Dannie suspects that David plans on proposing tonight. She chats with Bella Gold, her best friend since they were 7. She goes to the interview and nails it. That night, Dannie anxiously waits for the ring. When he finally asks, she is delighted and says yes. Hours later, she’s happily asleep.
When she wakes up, Dannie is confused. She somewhere in Brookyln with a man she doesn’t recognize in an apartment she doesn’t recognize. On the news, the date displayed is December 15, 2025. It slowly dawns on her in this situation, whatever it is, she lives in this artist’s loft and this man lives here too. They’re engaged. His driver’s license indicates that he’s Aaron Gregory, 33. They eat dinner. Dannie decides she needs to go find David and figure out what happened in the last five years and why they’re no longer together. But Aaron asks her to stay. Dannie feels something overwhelming towards him, so she stays and they have sex.
Chapters 4 – 6
When Dannie wakes, it’s 2020 again. She’s in her home with David and the weird interlude seems like a strange dream. She talks to a therapist, Dr. Christine, who also dismisses it as a dream. Weeks later, she’s handing in her notice to start her new job at Wachtell. They move to Gramercy and David starts working at a hedge fund. Years pass and go exactly according to plan. However, she keeps putting off getting married as she wonders about that dream.
It’s June 2025 now, and Dannie meets up with Bella for brunch. Bella now owns a small gallery in Chelsea named Oliander. Chloe has been her assistant for the last three years. As they chat, Bella jokes about how disciplined Dannie is. Dannie can’t remember if she had been more carefree when she was younger, before her brother died after being hit by a drunk driver when she was 12. Bella also talks about (yet another) new guy in her life, Greg, who is an architect.
Chapters 7 – 9
Dannie and David meet up with Bella and Greg for dinner. Dannie is shocked when Greg turns out to be the man from her dream, Aaron Gregory (nicknamed “Greg” by Bella). Dannie pretends to be sick so she can leave. She has a dream of herself being back in the Brooklyn apartment and Bella demanding to know why Aaron’s sweatpants are there.
The next day, she does to see Dr. Christine to tell her what happened, but Dr. Christine has no answers. Next, Dannie tries to go find the Brooklyn apartment she had dreamed of. When she sits down to eat, she runs into Aaron, who is apartment searching for him and Bella. He shows her the apartment he’s looking at, a loft in Dumbo. Immediately Dannie recognizes it from her dream though it’s not renovated (unlike her dream).
Chapters 10 – 13
When she gets home, Dannie insists that she and David need to get married (she wants to prevent the future she saw from coming true). David is happy when Dannie announces she finally ready. They agree on December, five months from now. Soon, David starts pushing Dannie to pick a date so they start planning.
Bella notes that something is off with Dannie, but Dannie doesn’t tell her the truth about her dream. Bella says that she thinks her relationship with Aaron is the real thing.
Chapters 14 – 16
At the end of August, the four of them head to Amagansett for Labor Day weekend, along with another couple, Morgan and Ariel. Morgan and Ariel were married three years ago in the Catskills. Dannie notices how happy Bella is with Aaron. Bella soon excitedly confides that she thinks she might be pregnant. They pick up a pregnancy test, and it comes back positive. Bella says that she loves Aaron, but she isn’t ready to tell anyone yet.
The next day, they go to the beach. Dannie and Aaron have a quiet moment where they chat and go swimming together. Dannie tells him about how close she and Bella are. Aaron casually tells Dannie that he likes her (as in Dannie).
Chapters 17 – 19
Back at work, things are busy. On Wednesday, Bella happily tells Dannie that she told Aaron about the pregnancy. Dannie congratulates them. That Saturday, Bella and Dannie end up shopping for baby clothes, and soon Bella’s apartment is filled with baby stuff. Dannie finds Bella painting to prep the baby’s room.
In mid-September, Dannie plans to meet with her wedding planner on Saturday, but Friday night she gets an upset call from Aaron. They were wrong about the baby. Instead, the doctors think Bella has ovarian cancer (which in rare cases can cause false positives for pregnancy tests and can mimic the symptoms of pregnancy).
Dannie tries to contact Bella’s father, Frederick, in Paris. Bella’s parents never had much interest in raising a child. Instead she spent her time with Dannie’s family, and Art was where Bella really found her stride. On Saturday, Dannie gives Bella’s father the news, who makes a Monday appointment with Dr. Finky, an oncologist. Dannie lets Bella’s mother Jill know as well.
Chapters 20 – 23
Bella’s stage 3 ovarian cancer is confirmed, with a 50% chance of survival. A hysterectomy is scheduled. Bella wants to freeze her eggs first, but the doctor doesn’t recommend it because hormones can exacerbate the cancer. The surgery is scheduled for Tuesday. Bella is upset. Dannie and Aaron meet up to chat about Bella. Dannie makes the comment that no one would blame him for bailing in this situation, but Aaron looks her straight on and tells her clearly that he loves Bella and is not going anywhere.
On Tuesday, October 4, Bella goes to Mount Sinai for the surgery with Dr. Shaw. Jill and Frederick show up for the surgery, which annoys Dannie since they’ve never been there for Bella. To break the tension, Aaron takes Dannie to the rooftop of a building he’s working on. Aaron talks about why he loves Bella. The surgery goes well.
Chapters 24 – 26
Bella is released after five days, though chemo is starts in three weeks. Her parents depart, though Jill hires Bella a private nurse, Svedka, to care for her. At first it goes well, but the chemicals soon really start working and Bella gets sick. Dannie’s birthday is coming up, on October 21, so Bella gets her a gift. It’s an art print that Dannie recognizes from the apartment in her flashforward vision. When Bella announces that she ended up buying the Dumbo loft, Dannie makes Bella promise not to move in, telling her to just sell it as an investment property.
At work, Dannie’s mentor, Aldridge, offers to assign her to an IPO for a company called Yahtzee that will entail a lot of work beginning next month. It would require being in California, half in LA and half in Silicon Valley. Dannie accepts. Meanwhile, wedding planning continues, and December remains the target date.
Chapters 27 – 32
Dannie gets mad at Bella when she mentions getting martinis with Jill, since alcohol can interfere with the chemo. It leads to a fight, and Bella asks her to leave. Dannie ends up calling Aaron to talk. Dannie don’t trust Bella’s parents to be there for her, but Aaron thinks she should just let them be there even if they haven’t been there in the past. Aaron reminds her of how scared Bella is. Dannie keeps going to the hospital, though Dr. Shaw tells her to just keep being there for Bella.
In November, Dannie flies out to Los Angeles. Dannie feels guilty for enjoying her work while Bella is trying to beat cancer. The last step for wedding planning is to find a dress, and Dannie buys a $3,000 wedding dress off the rack since there’s no time to custom order a dress.
By mid-November, Bella still hasn’t spoken to Dannie in two weeks. But her post-chemo results are not good, and Bella asks Dannie to come see her. Bella and Dannie make up. Then, Bella announces that she and Aaron are engaged. Bella also tells Dannie that she doesn’t think David is the one for her.
Chapters 33 – 35
At work, Yahtzee decides to hold off on their IPO, but Dannie is asked to head up Yahtzee’s in-house legal team. Dannie is sure it will ensure her chances to become a junior partner. Dannie and David plan to go out to celebrate, but Dannie worries that they are simply on complementary career tracks without actually ever touching each other.
At dinner, Dannie suggests postponing the wedding, but when David gets irritated, she takes it back. However, it can’t be unsaid and David soon calls off the wedding since it’s clear Dannie doesn’t want to marry him. Dannie goes to Bella and cries in her arms.
The second round of chemo is brutal. Bella starts to lose her hair.
Chapters 36 – 40
Dannie moves in with Bella now that she and David are no longer together. But in the first week of December, Aaron surprises Dannie with the Dumbo loft. Bella and Aaron have renovated it, working on it for months, so that Dannie can live there. Dannie thinks about everything she tried to do to prevent the vision in her dream from coming true and how that vision still keeps approaching. Suddenly, alone with Aaron in the apartment that she saw in her dream, Dannie and Aaron end up kissing. Aaron pulls away, and Bella calls. Dannie thanks her for the apartment, and Aaron leaves.
Bella health deteriorates quickly. Jill and Dannie meet for a drink, and Jill admits she hasn’t been a great mother. She reminisces to Dannie that one of the best things she did was to enroll Bella at Dannie’s school after they’d met. Bella had liked Dannie so much, they thought it would be nice for her to have a friend. Dannie tells Jill that Bella needs her (Jill) now, and Jill goes to see Bella.
In their last conversation, Bella says that she’s sad Dannie has never felt true love or gotten her heart broken. But staring at her dying friend, Dannie knows that Bella is wrong.
Bella passes away the following Thursday with Jill and the nurse beside her. The funeral is on December 15. Afterwards, without talking about Aaron goes back with Dannie to her apartment.
Back at her apartment, the scene from her dream plays out. On her finger is Bella’s engagement ring, which Dannie has been wearing on her middle finger to feel close to Bella. Dannie remembers that she had felt something overwhelming and insurmountable in her dream, which she had mistaken as her love for Aaron, but she was wrong. It was grief over Bella.
Afterwards, Dannie returns Aaron’s engagement ring to him. They agree to meet up for lunch. They hug and he leaves. Dannie goes out to the deli outside the apartment and runs into Dr. (Mark) Shaw. Dannie notices how handsome he is. He walks her home and will soon ask Dannie to see her again some time, when he’s ready. Dannie “will tell him yes, perhaps. Perhaps.”