Ana knows little about her birth mother: she knows that she gave Ana away. She has a photograph, too, found in her Father's belongings when she was a teenager. It might be her mother, but there are two women in it and she doesn't know whether it is a clue or not. She also knows her mother's name, but Solange Mendes is a common name in Angola, so it, like Ana, could belong to anyone. The only thing she knows for sure is that now Helena, her Father's wife and the woman who brought her up in Lisbon, is dead, she must find Solange.
Luanda, Angola, is a long way from Ana's adopted home in Dublin, but she knows it's the only place to begin her search, so she visits her brother, Tiago, and his family, so frozen by the project ahead of her that she makes no plans, has no ideas, and doesn't even confess to him her real reasons for the trip.
As the narrative switches between Ana's search and Helena and Jose's relationship, beginning with their first meeting in a cafe in 1960s Lisbon, Walking On Dry Land builds a delicate portrait of how a family secret can lie undisturbed for a lifetime.