Book Clubbin’: 10 Discussion Questions for ‘In Five Years’ by Rebecca Serle

Welcome to our monthly blog feature, Book Clubbin’!

With social distancing in place, it’s more important than ever to stay connected. One excellent way to drum up some excitement amongst you and your friends is to start or join a book club! If you can’t find the extra time at home to sit down and enjoy a book, audiobooks are a great way to squeeze in some literary entertainment without taking much time out of your day. You can listen while you do chores, cook, or even while you work. Before you know it, you’ll have knocked out those pages in no time!

Our pick for April is In Five Years by Rebecca Serle, narrated by Megan Hilty. The novel has already proven to be quite a popular book club choice, with Good Morning America, FabFitFun, and Marie Claire all featuring it for discussion.

In Five Years springs from the popular conversation starter, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s likely a question we’ve all been asked and one that most can answer with at least some clarity. Dannie Kohan is someone who has her life planned to the letter. So, when a future employer asks her in an interview where she sees herself in five years, she has a pitch-perfect answer prepared. That night, after nailing the interview and getting engaged to her live-in boyfriend, she falls asleep only to wake up five years in the future in an unfamiliar apartment beside another man, with a different ring on her finger. When, after an hour, she wakes up once again in her own home in the present, Dannie finds she cannot shake the vision of her future that is completely off-kilter from the one she had planned.

It’s no surprise that In Five Years has been such a popular book club pick. If you’re itching to dive in, check out our discussion questions below! Beware — SPOILERS ahead.

—————MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!————

1) In Five Years explores the notions of fate versus choice. Discuss how this theme is presented and how each character reacts. Is it ever possible for fate and choice to overlap and work in tandem? Or will the two always be separate entities that one will have to choose between?

2) Had Dannie not experienced her flashforward, would her life — with David, Bella, her job — still have played out the same way? How much does our knowledge of the future dictate how we live in the present?

3) The novel is bookended by the same scene between Dannie and Aaron, although they carry different meanings at different points in the story. Why do you think Rebecca Serle chose to do this?

4) After having experienced the entirety of the novel, what does this mirrored scene reveal about Dannie? What does it reveal about you as a reader?

5) If the flashforward had happened to another character, do you think the story would still have played out the same way? How do you think they would have reacted?

6) In Five Years grapples with the myriad complexities of love. Discuss how this theme pops up in Dannie’s relationships — with Bella, David, and Aaron. How does Serle use the generic elements of a rom-com to subvert our expectations of how a love story is supposed to play out?

7) Why do you think Serle chose to begin the novel at a point when Dannie’s life was, according to herself at least, near-perfect? Does the falling apart of her step-by-step plan signal a failure somewhere in the process, or does it actually make her life fuller?

8) Neither Dannie nor Bella are particularly close with their parents. Why do you think Serle chose to portray their familial relationships this way?

9) Are there any aspects of the novel that you wish had been different?

10) If given the chance, would you look five years into your future?



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Book Clubbin’: 10 Discussion Questions for The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Welcome to our monthly blog feature, Book Clubbin’!

Sometimes life can get so hectic that you’re lucky if you find time to shower let alone read your book club book in time. If your New Years’ resolution is to read more but you can’t find the time, audiobooks are the answer! You can press play on this month’s pick during your commute or while you’re cooking dinner and before you know it, you’ll have knocked out those pages in no time!

February’s pick is The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates, narrated by Joe Morton. The novel is Coates’ first foray into fiction, whose bibliography also includes the acclaimed memoir Between the World and Me. Not only was The Water Dancer chosen for Oprah’s Book Club revival, but it also debuted at the top of the New York Times Fiction Best Seller list. Coates began writing the novel around 2008 and 2009 when he was doing extensive research on slavery and the Civil War. Set on a struggling tobacco plantation in Virginia, The Water Dancer follows Hiram Walker, a young mixed-race boy born into slavery who discovers he possesses a superhuman ability when he falls into a river.

You definitely don’t want to miss this striking debut novel. Check out our discussion questions below, but beware — SPOILERS ahead.

—————MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!————

1) Is the story buoyed by only having Hiram’s point-of-view, or did you feel it was lacking in opportunity and diversity by excluding other characters’ voices?

2) Why do you think Coates decided to write The Water Dancer through the lens of magic realism? What did the addition of his characters’ extraordinary abilities allow Coates to explore and interrogate that he couldn’t have done if the novel wasn’t embellished with magic?

3) Memory is a key theme in the novel. What is Coates suggesting by making the power of Conduction directly tied to memories and the act of remembering? What is the significance of Hiram being unable to recall certain memories?

4) Consider this quote:

“At every gathering there was this dispute about my mother’s mother, Santi Bess, and her fate. The myth held that she had executed the largest escape of tasking folk—forty-eight souls—ever recorded in the annals of Elm County. And it was not simply that they had escaped but where they’d been said to escape to—Africa. It was said that Santi had simply led them down to the river Goose, walked in, and reemerged on the other side of the sea.”

Discuss the significance of River Goose which for some, such as Maynard, is a symbol of danger and death, while for others, like Hiram and Santi Bess, is a symbol of resistance and freedom.

5) How did you feel about the inclusion of a real historical figure such as Harriet Tubman in the story? What impact did it have?

6) Why do you think Coates chose to set The Water Dancer predominantly on a declining tobacco plant? How does Coates juxtapose the trajectory of Lockless to the plights of Hiram and the Underground?

7) Coates often wrestles with how the war against injustice should be waged. When Corrine Quinn and Hawkins plan to take down Georgie Parks, Hiram reminds us that even Georgie was forced into his exploits by circumstance. To what extent is revenge or punishment just when each character is trapped in one way or another?

8) Discuss the complexities of motherhood and fatherhood in the novel and the many forms of “family” we encounter. How does slavery corrupt families? How does Hiram come to define family by the end?

9) Consider the experiences of enslaved women versus enslaved men. How does Coates convey tensions between black characters along gender lines? How does it impact Hiram and Sophia’s relationship over time?

10) Is there any part of the book that you wish had been written differently?

New to Audiobooks.com? Get your first book free, PLUS a bonus book from our VIP selection when you sign up for our one-month free trial. Digital audiobooks make audible stories come to life when you’re commuting, working out, cleaning, cooking, and more! Listening is easy with our top-rated free audiobook apps for iOS and Android, which let you download & listen to bestselling audiobooks on the go, wherever you are. Click here to get your free audiobooks!

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