WINNER OF THE PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD FOR DEBUT FICTION
SHORTLISTED FOR THE VCU/CABELL FIRST NOVELIST AWARD AND LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE
“[A] scorching desert-noir. . . . Like her nervy protagonists, Tomar is a taker of risks.” —New York Times Book Review “Breathtaking . . . For Penny and Cale, violence looms at all corners and in Tomar’s compassionate rendering, they are imbued with strength, fortitude and fierceness.” —San Francisco Chronicle
Cale Lambert, a bookish loner of mysterious parentage, lives in a dusty town near the California-Nevada border, a place where coyotes scavenge for backyard dogs and long-haul truckers scavenge for pills and girls. Cale was raised by her grandfather in a loving, if codependent, household, but as soon as she's left high school his health begins an agonizing decline. Set adrift for the first time, Cale starts waitressing at the local diner, where she reconnects with Penélope Reyes, a charismatic former classmate running mysterious side-hustles to fund her dreams. Penny exposes Cale to the reality that exists beyond their small town, and the girls become inseparable—until one terrifying act of violence shatters their world. When Penny vanishes without a trace, Cale must set off on a dangerous quest across the desert to find her friend, and discover herself.
An audacious debut, told in deftly interwoven chapters, A Prayer for Travelers explores the complicated legacy of the American West and the trauma of female experience.
About the Author
Ruchika Tomar was raised in Southern California. She holds a BA in English literature from the University of California, Irvine, and an MFA from Columbia University. A recent Wallace Stegner Fellow, she is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.
The 20 Best Debuts of the Second Half of 2019, Electric Lit
“[A] scorching desert-noir. . . . Like her nervy protagonists, Tomar is a taker of risks.” —New York Times Book Review
“Breathtaking . . . For Penny and Cale, violence looms at all corners and in Tomar’s compassionate rendering, they are imbued with strength, fortitude and fierceness.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A literary page-turner of the highest order.” —Noreen Tomassi, New York Magazine
“A debut novel with everything.” —Cosmopolitan
“A tension-filled novel of trauma and survival.” —Marie Claire
“A fierce account of the violent cost of being a woman in this world . . . Tomar writes with blistering precision, [and] her portrayal of the ways in which we’re formed by love and trauma is sensitive, yet searing.” —Nylon
“Ruchika Tomar is an ace cartographer of the heart and its urgent, wild, unruly ways. Radiant with longing, A Prayer for Travelers is an unforgettable debut.” —R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
“A Prayer for Travelers is a novel haunted by missing persons and lost souls, written in telepathic prose. Ruchika Tomar sees through walls, around corners, and into the deep heart of what matters, and moves us, the most. A beautiful debut.” —Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet
“Sometimes characters come along that demand a new kind of novel. The young women at the center of Ruchika Tomar’s A Prayer for Travelers – elusive Penny and wounded Cale – are two spirits hitchhiking through geographies of dislocation and desire. Some chapters trot past, stealthy as high-desert coyotes, while others brushfire themselves into your mind. Moods form, visions sear, an uneasy ache prevails. The human collisions in Tomar’s novel are emotionally seismic, and they leave us haunted and unsettled.” —Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master’s Son
“Whoever you are, wherever you are reading these words, I wish I could take you (gently) by the lapels, look in your eyes, and say, Read this, it will awe you. Ruchika Tomar is a superb recognizer of the subtle and the elusive, of the exigencies of love and trauma. A Prayer for Travelers is one of the wild books that somehow shook itself free of the usual constraints so it could go for its own deep life, a forceful, strange, indelible book I am never going to get over.” —Elizabeth Tallent, author of Mendocino Fire