Walking with Her Daughter was Inclan’s 2005 offering. In it, we find Jenna Thomas reeling with grief after the life of her 20-year-old daughter is tragically cut short by a terrorist’s bomb in Bali. As Jenna comes to terms with her shattering loss, she also struggles to make sense of her relationship with her ex-husband, as well as with her younger colleague with whom she has a budding romance. In the midst of this, Jenna makes a discovery that tips everything up on end, and forces her to confront what it means to embrace new life.
Though as flawlessly written as anything she’s done, I did not like this novel. I did admire Inclan’s unparalleled skill as a writer – subtly twisting the plot, drawing unique characters in infinite detail, getting beneath their skins and inside their heads. But about halfway through, I found myself skimming pages (not a good sign) in a hurry to reach the end, not because I was eager to reach the conclusion, but because I wanted to be done with Jenna. As a protagonist, I didn’t enjoy her. Not because her story began with horrific, unimaginable tragedy; so did the heroine of Blue Water by A. Manette Ansay, which I loved. No, the reason I didn’t want to spend time with Jenna was because her choices were repellent to me: habitually sleeping with her ex, drowning her grief in sex with her colleague, debating abortion until she’s assured by extensive prenatal testing that she carries a healthy child… I’m sorry, but yuck. Jenna’s unpalatable moral character colored everything she did. And because of this, though the story ended on a hopeful note, it still left me with a bad taste in my mouth.