A Prayer for Travelers

A Prayer for Travelers

This daring debut novel propels readers into the world of Penny and Cale, two marginalized young women who forge an intense bond against a constricting backdrop of violence and isolation in Nevada's northern desert.Cale, a bookish loner of mysterious parentage, was abandoned by her mother and raised by her grandfather in a loving, if codependent, household. One pivotal sum...

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Title:A Prayer for Travelers
Author:Ruchika Tomar
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A Prayer for Travelers Reviews

  • James Beggarly

    Wonderful book where the author has scrambled the chapters so that we see two women who work at a diner become friends, but also follow the story of how one of the women goes missing and the lengths that the other woman will go to to try and find her. Tomar is such a smart writer with a delicious turn of phrase and sharp dialogue.

  • Anne ✨

    Wow! I adored this gritty noir mystery/coming-of-age debut! It has gorgeous writing, a suspenseful edginess, and a Nevada desert town setting that drips with desolation and desperation.

    The story is told in a non-linear format, slowly revealing out-of-order moments in the life of 17yr old Cale, who is searching for her friend Penny, who has disappeared. There's a strongly haunted feel, with a powerful build-up of tension and some startling twists and turns along the way. Themes of family, love, f

    Wow! I adored this gritty noir mystery/coming-of-age debut! It has gorgeous writing, a suspenseful edginess, and a Nevada desert town setting that drips with desolation and desperation.

    The story is told in a non-linear format, slowly revealing out-of-order moments in the life of 17yr old Cale, who is searching for her friend Penny, who has disappeared. There's a strongly haunted feel, with a powerful build-up of tension and some startling twists and turns along the way. Themes of family, love, friendship, abandonment, trauma, and violence are explored in powerful and unusual ways.

    The audio performance by Sophie Amoss was excellent, beautifully capturing the tension, the grit, and the desolation. As soon as I'd finished this one, I wanted to rewind and listen all over again!

  • Annie

    When my brain starts to make connections between stories, it usually stays with in one medium. For example, I tend to compare books to books, movies to movies, songs to songs, etc. But every now and then, I’ll run across a story that jumps across media. That’s exactly what happened when I read Ruchika Tomar’s hypnotic novel,

    . This mystery, set in the north Nevada desert, reminded me strongly of

    , and, weirdly,

    (but only the mystery

    When my brain starts to make connections between stories, it usually stays with in one medium. For example, I tend to compare books to books, movies to movies, songs to songs, etc. But every now and then, I’ll run across a story that jumps across media. That’s exactly what happened when I read Ruchika Tomar’s hypnotic novel,

    . This mystery, set in the north Nevada desert, reminded me strongly of

    , and, weirdly,

    (but only the mystery part of that movie, not the bowling stuff). The story of Cale seeking her friend Penny is told out of order so that we’re piecing things together as much as Cale was when she lived it. It’s also packed with twists that make our protagonist—and us—wonder who we can trust and who the real villain is...

  • Janet

    This book, about the friendship of two very different young women in a desert town so small its known only to those who live there. A quiet girl who cares for her grandfather on the land, sensitive to the small nuances of texture and love, and a brash, explosive girl trying to create a space of color and vivid life in the constricted limits of her existence. It reminded me of the dying town of the Last Picture Show, the same sand and trucks and neglected screen doors slamming in the wind, and th

    This book, about the friendship of two very different young women in a desert town so small its known only to those who live there. A quiet girl who cares for her grandfather on the land, sensitive to the small nuances of texture and love, and a brash, explosive girl trying to create a space of color and vivid life in the constricted limits of her existence. It reminded me of the dying town of the Last Picture Show, the same sand and trucks and neglected screen doors slamming in the wind, and the work of Joy Williams, the modern west and two approaches to the problem of being born into a harsh land. The quiet girl's dogged loyalty and love for her vivid friend and her grandfather is the book's engine, but the girl's interior life and the texture of this place is the book's glory. Beautiful and haunting.

  • Stacey A.  Prose and Palate

    “The entire right side of my face was throbbing, but Penny still looked beautiful; her exquisite features unmarred. She bore no physical changes from the events of the evening, no by-product of terror beyond the characteristic flush of her cheeks. Yet it was her beauty that had been the catalyst for all disaster. It worked on men like a disease.”

    I love books that push the envelope and challenge me, whether it’s through the content covered or the style in which the story is written. A Prayer fo

    “The entire right side of my face was throbbing, but Penny still looked beautiful; her exquisite features unmarred. She bore no physical changes from the events of the evening, no by-product of terror beyond the characteristic flush of her cheeks. Yet it was her beauty that had been the catalyst for all disaster. It worked on men like a disease.”

    I love books that push the envelope and challenge me, whether it’s through the content covered or the style in which the story is written. A Prayer for Travelers did both and even though I finished my buddy read with Lupita over a month ago, we were still DM’ing about this story as of yesterday. To me, THAT is the sign of a good book. So what exactly is it about this jarring debut that has made it so memorable?

    For starters, the writing is STUNNING. Ruchika has a way with words that left me breathless at times - from the beauty of her descriptions as well as from the sheer brutality that occurs within her writing. It reads like a fevered dream, at some points, more of a nightmare - with frightening, panicked scenes interspersed throughout. The story is centered around Cale and Penny, two teenage girls who dare to want something more for their lives and who both desperately want to escape their current circumstances. The non-linear writing format allows the reader to be completely immersed in the chaos and confusion that Cale experiences when Penny goes missing and Cale begins her frantic search for her friend. You begin the story in Chapter 31 and then move to Chapter 3, which I will admit, took some getting used to for me in the beginning. I later learned from the author that her intent behind the chapter lay out was to mimic the way we process and cope with trauma. Often, events are recalled out of order and large periods of time are unaccounted for, so the writing style is incredibly effective in disorienting the reader and making you question absolutely everything that is happening.

    Cale is very much alone in the world - she has lost her mother to drugs and is being raised by her grandfather, who loves her deeply but has recently become very distant as he struggles with his cancer diagnosis. She is a loner at school and in the town - an outsider looking in - who, more than anything, wants to be noticed by the local “it” girl, Penny. When Cale takes a job at the same restaurant where Penny works, a fast and obsessive friendship develops. Penny as a character is elusive - Tomar allows brief glimpses in to her life, but for the most part, the development of Penny’s story is much like a mirage in the desert. I had a bad feeling the more that I read and warning bells were going off all around me. Many times I found myself yelling at the book, CALE WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? GET OUT OF THERE!! But if Penny said “jump”, Cale said “how high?” Her blind trust in her new found “friend” was very difficult for me to read at times and it leads to a horrific incident in the desert one night where both of the girls lives are altered forever.

    This book will not be for everyone….. yes, it is a story about the resilience of women and their fierce refusal to be broken by their circumstances but it is a very tough read. A Prayer for Travelers really examines trauma and how it shapes the female experience… it’s about how women process assault experiences, lean on one another and attempt to cope.… how women get up every day and put one foot in front of the other, even when the unspeakable has happened to them. And for Cale, it was also about the longing for female connection, for a sense of belonging, for wanting more than what she had and daring to think that she could go out and grab it. Did she ultimately achieve that or was she just another one of Penny’s hustles? You will have to read the book and find out.

    Many thanks to Riverhead Books for providing an advanced copy for me in exchange for my honest review.

  • Anya Yurchyshyn

    A Prayer for Travelers is a deeply moving story about how hard it is--often literally--for young women to survive adolescence and the primal and indestructible bonds of friendship. I totally recognized Cale’s relationship with her best friend Penny and was as invested in it as they were. (Also, Cale's relationship with her grandfather Lamb was beautiful and broke my heart). The writing is rich yet controlled; the world was incredibly vivid, and I loved seeing it through Cale's eyes--the starknes

    A Prayer for Travelers is a deeply moving story about how hard it is--often literally--for young women to survive adolescence and the primal and indestructible bonds of friendship. I totally recognized Cale’s relationship with her best friend Penny and was as invested in it as they were. (Also, Cale's relationship with her grandfather Lamb was beautiful and broke my heart). The writing is rich yet controlled; the world was incredibly vivid, and I loved seeing it through Cale's eyes--the starkness and inertia of the desert, the seedy casinos... The book grabbed me so hard

    that I actually cancelled plans (with people, not just Netflix) to finish it, and now that I have, I’m going to call all my friends and tell them how much I love them and then start reading the book again.

  • Susie | Novel Visits

    {My Thoughts}

    I have so much to say about A Prayer for Travelers that I’m finding it difficult to know where to start. I loved Rochika Tomar’s very original, beautifully written debut. Let’s start with the most unusual way she told her story: mixing up the chapters. That’s right, Tomar told her story out of order. It began with chapter 31, went next to chapter 2 and ended with 76. I felt a little nervous about this. It seemed like it could be a bit of a gimmick, but instead it’s what made the mys

    {My Thoughts}

    I have so much to say about A Prayer for Travelers that I’m finding it difficult to know where to start. I loved Rochika Tomar’s very original, beautifully written debut. Let’s start with the most unusual way she told her story: mixing up the chapters. That’s right, Tomar told her story out of order. It began with chapter 31, went next to chapter 2 and ended with 76. I felt a little nervous about this. It seemed like it could be a bit of a gimmick, but instead it’s what made the mystery parts work. It kept me on my toes. Truly brilliant!

    Next, the desolate Nevada desert setting particularly spoke to me. My mom and two younger siblings moved to the Reno area when I was in college. We had family there and my mom was looking for a new start, so I’ve visited Nevada a lot. I can’t say I like it there and am thankful I was on my own before the move happened, but I can say that Tomar got her setting exactly right. Not just the quiet beauty of the desert, but the feeling there, the isolation, the languid hopelessness of scorching summer days, the desire to flee. Every bit felt completely real.

    That can only lead to Tomar’s gorgeous writing, and when I say gorgeous I mean it. A Prayer for Travelers is a tough, gritty, compelling story in its own right, but the writing made me want to simply savor every moment of the book. Under any circumstances I’d have been impressed, but coming from a debut author even more so. I’m already looking forward to Tomar’s next novel.

    “I rest my forehead against the steamed tiles of the shower stall, desperate to reach deep enough inside to touch the center of all things, to tear out the new, thorny part of me that has taken me away from Pomoc, but kept me barreling toward some unknown culmination of grief, a shimmering, formless mirage.”

    Finally, I suppose I should mention the best part of A Prayer for Travelers: the story itself, centered around Cale, a girl abandoned as a baby and raised by her grandfather, Lamb. The two had a very close relationship, unmooring Cale when Lamb was diagnosed with cancer just as she’s finishing high school.

    “Amid his growing inattention, all new freedoms were mine to steal. I could escape this modest home like either of those two mothers, dead and disappeared, but all I wanted to do was stay with Lamb, Lamb, Lamb.”

    Though loving, Cale’s childhood was far from normal. She grew up a loner, and it wasn’t until she started waitressing at a diner that she made her first close friend, Penny. Penny, wild, scheming, already living on her own, taught Cale a lot. She taught her about friendship, independence, life and most especially longing. From the first chapter we know that Penny has vanished and Cale is determined to find out what happened. Forward and back, Tomar seamlessly fills in the rest of their stories. Without a doubt A Prayer for Travelers is the best coming-of-age story I’ve read this year and quite possible the best debut. I highly recommend it! Grade: A

    Fro more reviews and bookish news:

  • Megan P ☆

    4.25/5

    CW: sexual abuse/assault & violence (in-text)

    I really loved this but it wasn’t an easy read.

    Pros: Absolutely excellent writing and atmosphere, with characters you deeply care about. I could visualize every face and place in this book with total clarity. It was a suspenseful story (The Sandman chapters actually had my heart racing) and made me want to keep coming back for more. It was also wholly unique. I saw someone compare it to a favorite, Sadie by Courtney Summers, and that piqued

    4.25/5

    CW: sexual abuse/assault & violence (in-text)

    I really loved this but it wasn’t an easy read.

    Pros: Absolutely excellent writing and atmosphere, with characters you deeply care about. I could visualize every face and place in this book with total clarity. It was a suspenseful story (The Sandman chapters actually had my heart racing) and made me want to keep coming back for more. It was also wholly unique. I saw someone compare it to a favorite, Sadie by Courtney Summers, and that piqued my interest. They definitely share some similarities- unconventional road trip stories with feminist themes- but, again, this book feels very special in its uniqueness.

    Cons: There’s some hints here that A Prayer for Travelers is a debut novel. I really believe the author will continue to improve over time; she’s obviously got talent and I’d enthusiastically pick up whatever she does next. Perhaps the biggest problem for me was the organization of this book; it was messy. I love a good non chronological story, but apparently I’m not clever enough to follow more than two distinct/significant alternating timelines. This was often hard to follow. I’d like to go back and reread the chapters in their numbered order eventually.

    This will absolutely not be for everyone but I think it’s worth giving it a shot.

  • Penny (Literary Hoarders)

    Here's another book where a main character is named Penny. :-) Another to add to the list.

  • Kelly

    The blurbs on this book are so Literary and don't tell you that this is a mystery, told out of order, about a brown girl named Cale who is raised by her grandfather who becomes entwined with a brown girl named Penny who goes missing. They're close friends -- though we only kind of believe this to be true, as the friendship seems one sided -- so Cale wants to know what happened to Penny and why it is she disappeared.

    Set in the west, in the desert, this well-paced, cleverly crafted, and gorgeously

    The blurbs on this book are so Literary and don't tell you that this is a mystery, told out of order, about a brown girl named Cale who is raised by her grandfather who becomes entwined with a brown girl named Penny who goes missing. They're close friends -- though we only kind of believe this to be true, as the friendship seems one sided -- so Cale wants to know what happened to Penny and why it is she disappeared.

    Set in the west, in the desert, this well-paced, cleverly crafted, and gorgeously written story offers up a slice of American narrative we don't see enough in that setting.

    This reminded me a lot of

    , for the way the mystery plays out and how it's told non-sequentially.

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