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 summer her life is upended by the discovery of a devastating secret that irrevocably threatens this formative relationship.Set adrift for the first time in her life, Cale begins waitressing at the local diner, where she reconnects with Penélope Reyes, a charismatic former classmate and all-around hustler. Penny exposes Cale to the complicated 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. Told in short, interconnecting chapters, A Prayer for Travelers explores the complicated legacy of the American West and the trauma of female experience.

A Prayer for Travelers Details

TitleA Prayer for Travelers
Author
ReleaseJul 9th, 2019
PublisherRiverhead
Rating
GenreFiction, Mystery, Contemporary, Literary Fiction

A Prayer for Travelers Review

  • Janet
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    3.0-3.5 Stars. Your guess is as good as mine on whether another reader would like this or not. It's a love it or hate it kind of book. I've seen some people compare this to Sadie and I'd say it's of the same vein. It's main characters are young girls, it's very dark and also unique. That's where the similarities end. In this book, Cale, is on a search to try and find her friend, Penny. Penny has just disappeared and no one seems to care. Meanwhile, Cale's guardian (who also happens to be her gra 3.0-3.5 Stars. Your guess is as good as mine on whether another reader would like this or not. It's a love it or hate it kind of book. I've seen some people compare this to Sadie and I'd say it's of the same vein. It's main characters are young girls, it's very dark and also unique. That's where the similarities end. In this book, Cale, is on a search to try and find her friend, Penny. Penny has just disappeared and no one seems to care. Meanwhile, Cale's guardian (who also happens to be her grandfather), is dying of cancer and their relationship is growing more and more strained. Super cheerful, right?!!? Well, no one goes into reading this book looking for rainbows and sunshine. There is plenty of sunshine, but it is the hot and oppressive kind. Here is my breakdown: The Good : 1) The writing. It is atmospheric at its very best. You are there in that hot, disgusting, dry desert. The perfect PSA against ever making me want to live in Nevada (sorry). Way too hot for me. (Similar to how the show, The Killing, made me never want to live in Seattle.) However, that illustrates how perfect of a job the author did of making this place come alive.2)The time jumping structure - as it illustrates the main characters difficulty with coping to all the horrible things that have just happened at almost the same time. The parts with the "event" were written so well (and at night when I was reading with a flashlight) mirrored perfectly with my setting in how much I was creeped out and shaken by it. There were certain parts that were so strong that it gave me that push I needed to continue and also know I would give a future work by this author a try. I put this in the good category because it was very creative, effective to what people go through when dealing with trauma and the book gods smiled in our favor because at least each chapter is numbered. Some authors choose to time jump without introducing the time period you're in so you're mind is left racing trying to find your place in the timeline. No worries for that here, but plan to flip back and forth a lot (at least I did). The bad : 1) The time jumping structure - made it hard to remember the order of things and where you were in the story. Not so much while you were reading, but when you picked it back up again. A physical book works best here so you can flip the pages back and forth to remember where the heck you were in the timeline of the story. Electronic format would be too annoying to do this and I probably would have given up or understood even less than I did reading it the first time. Maybe the whole point was to have gaps in understanding because it was very clear there were gaps with the characters?So as you can see, two things in the good category and only one thing in the bad. A very frustrating review to write and I'm sure, a very frustrating review to read. I eagerly await more people to read this so I can discuss it with someone!! This would make a really great book club book - best to read with friends so you can help each other figure out what happened. I look forward to the author's next effort. I can't wait to see what she does next as I think she is a very promising talent for her writing style alone. Thanks again to the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library for supplying my copy to loan and enjoy. :)Review Date: 08/04/19Publication Date: 07/09/19
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  • Anne ✨
    January 1, 1970
    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!
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    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 Sadie, for the way the mystery plays out and how it's told non-sequentially.
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  • Stacey A. Prose and Palate
    January 1, 1970
    “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.
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  • Megan P ☆
    January 1, 1970
    4.25/5CW: sexual abuse/assault & violence (both 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 pi 4.25/5CW: sexual abuse/assault & violence (both 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.
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  • Bonnie Brody
    January 1, 1970
    While I found the writing quite compelling and poetic at times, this novel just didn't come together for me. This had nothing to do with the unique way that the chapters were not non-linearly laid out. For instance, the novel opens up with Chapter 31 and the next chapter is 2, and so forth. I was able to follow the story line but I just didn't find it all that interesting. It dragged out for too long with nothing much at all happening that held my interest.Cale, the novel's protagonist, was left While I found the writing quite compelling and poetic at times, this novel just didn't come together for me. This had nothing to do with the unique way that the chapters were not non-linearly laid out. For instance, the novel opens up with Chapter 31 and the next chapter is 2, and so forth. I was able to follow the story line but I just didn't find it all that interesting. It dragged out for too long with nothing much at all happening that held my interest.Cale, the novel's protagonist, was left by her mother when she was an infant to be raised by her grandfather, Lamb. Lamb is dying of cancer though it is an unspoken secret. Cale grows up a bookish loner wanting very much to be part of a certain group of girls, the ones she thinks are edgy and cool, those who have knowledge of a life she's never participated in. Living in a small California dessert town, Cale is naive to the workings that go on behind the scenes, at least until she becomes friends with Penny.Cale works in a diner with Penny, and one day Penny doesn't show up for work. This is so unlike her that Cale goes to Penny's trailer to investigate. There she finds Penny's cell phone and a hint of something dangerous that Penny may be into. She knows that Penny is in trouble and is determined to find her. What is interesting, is that when the novel opens, Cale's face is mysteriously black and blue and she has nothing to say about this, even when she takes Penny's cell phone to the police and they are very curious about Cale's injuries.The response I had to this book may just be me. I tried very hard to like it and was so excited when it arrived in the mail. Sometimes, a particular book just doesn't speak to you, and that was my case with A Prayer for Travelers.
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  • S
    January 1, 1970
    This book is very well written. The author’s use of similes and metaphors strikes just the right balance allowing the story and the prose to open and create space for the reader. The timing is impeccable- I never found the story dragging or speeding too fast. The author also was quite adept at moving the reader around in time and never getting lost or losing her audience. Each chapter number indicates sequence and more importantly, the opening of each chapter contains enough landmarks and bread This book is very well written. The author’s use of similes and metaphors strikes just the right balance allowing the story and the prose to open and create space for the reader. The timing is impeccable- I never found the story dragging or speeding too fast. The author also was quite adept at moving the reader around in time and never getting lost or losing her audience. Each chapter number indicates sequence and more importantly, the opening of each chapter contains enough landmarks and bread crumbs that the reader can easily track the storyline. That in itself is a tremendous accomplishment.The downside to this book for me was the continuous violence against women. While I know that people and places like this exist, there were some elements of those that didn’t seem to serve the plot in any meaningful way. It’s almost became a constant thrum in the story as if every time a male character shows up, you can pretty much bet he’ll be bad. Also, for anyone snake phobic, avoid chapters 49 and 50 (roughly pp. 194-198, 203-213). You won’t miss much of the story line but you will miss snake descriptions that you’ll be glad to have avoided. Not sure why this was needed in the book.Finally, the ending didn’t really tie out for me. It wasn’t a lazy ending - the author didn’t just tidy up and go home. But there were details missing that left me wondering about the situation with Penny that don’t make sense. I’m not one that needs every detail pulled together but this ending left too many gaps for me.
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  • S.G. Wright
    January 1, 1970
    I'm somewhere between 3 & 4 stars ... and I'm still getting my thoughts together about what I thought of this novel -- which is about a bookish loner named Cale (around 19) who's been raised on little money in a desert town (near the Nevada/Calif border) by her maternal grandfather, Lamb. She has no friends or siblings but as she finishes high school, she becomes close to a charismatic, pretty girl named Penny, who gets her to work at the diner with her. They start hanging out and it appears I'm somewhere between 3 & 4 stars ... and I'm still getting my thoughts together about what I thought of this novel -- which is about a bookish loner named Cale (around 19) who's been raised on little money in a desert town (near the Nevada/Calif border) by her maternal grandfather, Lamb. She has no friends or siblings but as she finishes high school, she becomes close to a charismatic, pretty girl named Penny, who gets her to work at the diner with her. They start hanging out and it appears Penny has stuff going on on the side, like selling drugs to truckers to fund her dreams of leaving town etc. But one fateful night, an act of violence shatters their worlds ... and the next day Penny is missing. Cale sets off to find her, employing the town cop too, but meanwhile Cale's grandfather is in the hospital riddled with cancer and looks like he won't pull through, which sets Cale adrift at the same time Penny is missing.This coming-of-age story had a grittiness about it which I liked -- along with its desolate desert setting too, and the writing captured these two friends, Cale & Penny who are opposites that live in this dead end town. I was keen to find out the mystery of what happened to Penny - & if her friendship with Cale lasts -but the ending -- which includes this -- sort of fizzled a bit for me. Also I didn't find numbering the chapters out of order was really that appealing. Sure it's fine to alternate between the story's past & present but I don't need the chapter numbers to go haywire. Lastly there were a few stretches of slow or cryptic parts in the book ... where I wondered what the heck happened -- I had to read the ending a few times over. I kept anticipating a big denouement between the friends ... and it was more like an airing out ... after a very traumatic experience. Still I'm glad I read it and it made me think of being in their shoes.
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  • Anya Yurchyshyn
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Diana
    January 1, 1970
    More stars if the story was linear instead of the chapters bouncing around. It made the story more annoying than interesting.
  • Jenny
    January 1, 1970
    I finished this one a while ago but am having trouble deciding how I feel about it. Writers today often write a narrative that jumps around in time, and Ruchika Tomar also employs this method. Some authors do this better than others. For the first third of the book I had trouble keeping up and if asked to rate the book at that time I would have given it three stars. The middle third of the book was gripping and at one point (can't remember when exactly) I felt this was a great book and that it d I finished this one a while ago but am having trouble deciding how I feel about it. Writers today often write a narrative that jumps around in time, and Ruchika Tomar also employs this method. Some authors do this better than others. For the first third of the book I had trouble keeping up and if asked to rate the book at that time I would have given it three stars. The middle third of the book was gripping and at one point (can't remember when exactly) I felt this was a great book and that it deserved 4 stars. By the end of the book I was back to 3 stars. The plot and characters were well done and in general I'm glad I read the book. Somehow I felt that it could still be better.
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  • Annie
    January 1, 1970
    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, A Prayer for Travelers. This mystery, set in the north Nevada desert, reminded me strongly of Memento, The Long Goodbye, and, weirdly, The Big Lebowski (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, A Prayer for Travelers. This mystery, set in the north Nevada desert, reminded me strongly of Memento, The Long Goodbye, and, weirdly, The Big Lebowski (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...Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.
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  • Namrata
    January 1, 1970
    BRO. SIGN ME UP, BECAUSE.... THAT COVER!!!!
  • James Beggarly
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Penny (Literary Hoarders)
    January 1, 1970
    Here's another book where a main character is named Penny. :-) Another to add to the list.
  • Susie | Novel Visits
    January 1, 1970
    {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: AFro more reviews and bookish news: https://novelvisits.com/
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  • Stacey A. Prose and Palate
    January 1, 1970
    “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. And to Ruchika, who spent almost an entire afternoon discussing the brilliance that is her book with me, THANK YOU. Thank you for your time, thank you for your voice, and thank you for writing a story that will no doubt speak to so many women who have found themselves the victims of violence.
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    With its meticulously jumbled narrative structure, "A Prayer for Travelers" is never less than interesting, I'll say that for it . . . there are a few chapters in which it actually ascends to "good," but it loses momentum and deteriorates back into an experiment at the absolute worst time, near the end. Plenty of authors write non-liner novels, but Ms. Tomar's particular innovation (at least it's one I've never seen anywhere else) is to number her chapters based on where they would appear if the With its meticulously jumbled narrative structure, "A Prayer for Travelers" is never less than interesting, I'll say that for it . . . there are a few chapters in which it actually ascends to "good," but it loses momentum and deteriorates back into an experiment at the absolute worst time, near the end. Plenty of authors write non-liner novels, but Ms. Tomar's particular innovation (at least it's one I've never seen anywhere else) is to number her chapters based on where they would appear if the book followed a conventional timeline, e.g. the book starts with Chapter 31, and Chapter 1 doesn't appear until page 197. A reader with sufficient time and interest could re-construct "A Prayer for Travelers" so it's sequential. Well, I don't have that kind of time, and to be blunt, wouldn't have enough interest if I did. Ms. Tomar's coming-of-age story about Cale, a girl from Nowhereville USA whose guardian grandfather dies the same week (or maybe day) that her best friend disappears, is strong, but not strong enough to withstand such postmodern cutesiness. Now and then the mix-and-match construction felt like an authentic depiction of the confused way people remember an especially traumatic time in their lives; now and then it's cleverness for the sake of cleverness, and if you have the patience for that, please teach me your secret. Still, Ms. Tomar is a writer of considerable talent and ambition, she's going to have an interesting career.
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  • Catherine at The Gilmore Guide to Books
    January 1, 1970
    Cale doesn’t have a lot of people in her life. In fact, there’s only one since her mother left her in a hospital room when she was an infant. Her grandfather, a quiet old man who has no experience with children, who takes her to casinos while he gambles, but whose face, voice, and familiar smells are all she knows of love. It’s a small life in nowheresville Nevada until she meets Penny. Penny, the prettiest girl in her gang, a group of girls who pay no attention to Cale. It’s only when she start Cale doesn’t have a lot of people in her life. In fact, there’s only one since her mother left her in a hospital room when she was an infant. Her grandfather, a quiet old man who has no experience with children, who takes her to casinos while he gambles, but whose face, voice, and familiar smells are all she knows of love. It’s a small life in nowheresville Nevada until she meets Penny. Penny, the prettiest girl in her gang, a group of girls who pay no attention to Cale. It’s only when she starts working at the local diner with Penny that an entirely new world opens up to her. A world of friendship and camaraderie. One that shatters when Penny goes missing. A Prayer for Travelers begins with this mystery and ends with even more questions. As Cale combs through Penny’s life, trying to find where she might have gone and why, we learn that her life is a tangled one. As complicated as Cale’s is not. She waitresses, lives alone in a trailer, has a little sister, deals drugs and sleeps with men when she needs cash. And yet, with all these connections, no one has any idea what might have happened to her. Just as startling is that none of them seem to care. Cale is Penny’s opposite—quiet, with no friends but her dog, with an inner life and love of books. This mismatched friendship reminded me a bit of Mesha Maron’s Sugar Run, another novel of friendship, repercussions, and coming-of-age.There’s an aimless quality to A Prayer for Travelers, thanks to Tomar’s desert dry, baked heat writing. Cale wanders through her young life as does Penny, but both are seeking something else, something more. What this might be is not clear, except that for Cale it’s something like college, while for Penny it’s something darker. It was something else powering her through those moments, some incubating fury she had never shown. There are events and upheaval in the novel, some of the kind that changes lives, but Tomar maintains a pervasive sense of detachment throughout. In the wrong hands this could push a reader away, but instead, it’s almost magnetic. It’s the characters and the smallness, as well as the enervating Southwestern environment, that lures. A Prayer for Travelers is a novel of journey, not destination. By its end, certain facts are clear, but others are lost to sight like the road in a dust storm.
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  • Linda Robinson
    January 1, 1970
    An excellent example of why there aren't more women road stories. And why timelines that bounce need to be tethered somehow somewhere.
  • Annarella
    January 1, 1970
    An amazing and engrossing book: great style of writing, wonderful character and a very good plot.Highly recommended!Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
  • Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
    January 1, 1970
    While many authors play with structure to tease out thematic issues and discussions, few do it with the dexterity of Ruchika Tomar in A PRAYER FOR TRAVELERS (@riverheadbooks #partner). You cannot help grapple with an opening chapter numbered 31... which is followed by 2, then 5! While initially the numbering threw me, it reads like many other non-linear narratives in the hazed jumps it makes between narrative threads. @prose_and_palate articulates this perfectly in her review as being like a “fe While many authors play with structure to tease out thematic issues and discussions, few do it with the dexterity of Ruchika Tomar in A PRAYER FOR TRAVELERS (@riverheadbooks #partner). You cannot help grapple with an opening chapter numbered 31... which is followed by 2, then 5! While initially the numbering threw me, it reads like many other non-linear narratives in the hazed jumps it makes between narrative threads. @prose_and_palate articulates this perfectly in her review as being like a “fevered dream” - and if you hop over to goodreads her full review mentions some of the significance behind Tomar’s decision to do this and the way it mirrors memories of trauma. Completely fascinating and so effectively written! This was one of the stand out features of the writing in this for me.This also reads as a mystery of sorts, as our protagonist Cale is following two primary threads - one on which she is losing her grandfather to a cancer battle, and another in which her childhood friend turned co-worker has disappeared. The non-linearity is seamless in unraveling these two narratives and combining them to give this complex character study of Cale and the way she has processed various traumas. An absolutely stunning novel and exciting to see this is a debut - hopefully lots more to come from this wonderful [email protected] and @lupita.reads are also a big fans of this one so head on over to read their reviews too.
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  • Julia Torgrimso
    January 1, 1970
    I don't usually write reviews but I feel like I have to for this book. The premise of the book is Cale's friend, Penny, has disappeared and Cale attempts to find her. That is the basic storyline but there is a great deal more that takes place in this story. The structure of this book is brilliant! The story is not told in a linear fashion, rather the chapters occur out of place. The book starts with Ch. 31, then Ch. 2, then Ch. 3 and so it goes. It is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together I don't usually write reviews but I feel like I have to for this book. The premise of the book is Cale's friend, Penny, has disappeared and Cale attempts to find her. That is the basic storyline but there is a great deal more that takes place in this story. The structure of this book is brilliant! The story is not told in a linear fashion, rather the chapters occur out of place. The book starts with Ch. 31, then Ch. 2, then Ch. 3 and so it goes. It is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. One of the themes of the book is trauma and its effects. The non- linear placing of the chapters helps the reader to be sympathetic to the characters as they deal with trauma. When I first started the book, I didn't think it was well-written but I have since changed my mind. It is written in a gritty style, reminiscent of Donna Tartt. I don't usually like that type of writing but I can recognize that it is excellent writing. Also, this story is very slow moving. I was ready toDNF it a third of the way through but I had to find out what happened. I am so glad that I did! This will be a book that stays with me for a very long time.
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  • Cátia Vieira
    January 1, 1970
    Why should you read this book?Two marginalized young women: Cale and Penny. Violence. Nevada’s northern desert. These are the crucial ingredients of A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar. In this debut novel, Penny suddenly disappears and Cale sets off on a dangerous quest across the desert to find her friend.I really enjoyed this novel. The chapters are displayed in no particular order but I think that gave rhythm and strengthen the book. I also think Ruchika Tomar built an impressive and cap Why should you read this book?Two marginalized young women: Cale and Penny. Violence. Nevada’s northern desert. These are the crucial ingredients of A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar. In this debut novel, Penny suddenly disappears and Cale sets off on a dangerous quest across the desert to find her friend.I really enjoyed this novel. The chapters are displayed in no particular order but I think that gave rhythm and strengthen the book. I also think Ruchika Tomar built an impressive and captivating world. It’s gritty, violent and mysterious. While I was reading this book, I kept picturing the vibrant scenes in my head. The friendship between Cale and Penny was also developed/written beautifully and free of any cliches.I don’t think this is a book that will appeal to everyone because of certain topics and the style itself. This isn’t an easy or quick read. But if you enjoy books that delve into the complexities of human relationships and the strangeness of the world and life itself, you should give it a go!I’d like to thank Riverhead Books for sending a review copy. For more reviews, follow me on Instagram: @booksturnyouon
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  • Sherri
    January 1, 1970
    This book has everything I love about reading: exquisite prose, a dark and threatening mystery, a landscape that’s as much a part of the story as its human characters, and a unique and creative structure. While it’s common to find a novel that bounces around different timelines, the scrambling of the chapter order is what makes this unique. I would love to read this again with the chapters in chronological order to compare the experience. Either way, this was one of my favorite reads so far this This book has everything I love about reading: exquisite prose, a dark and threatening mystery, a landscape that’s as much a part of the story as its human characters, and a unique and creative structure. While it’s common to find a novel that bounces around different timelines, the scrambling of the chapter order is what makes this unique. I would love to read this again with the chapters in chronological order to compare the experience. Either way, this was one of my favorite reads so far this year. Disclaimer. There are a couple of disturbing scenes in this book; one involves sexual violence. Because of the descriptive nature of her writing, they felt a bit too real.
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  • Sherwestonstec
    January 1, 1970
    Ok, this was a very strange book. It started with Chapter 31 and then Chapter 2 , then Chapter 5. You can see where this was going. Most of the chapters are out of order, but you are suppose to read them this way. This did bother me, I really wanted to read them in sequence but i mostly read them in the order the author wanted. It would be interesting to hear what others think. The story was very intriguing but I wasn't exactly thrilled with the ending. I don't want to give anything away but I h Ok, this was a very strange book. It started with Chapter 31 and then Chapter 2 , then Chapter 5. You can see where this was going. Most of the chapters are out of order, but you are suppose to read them this way. This did bother me, I really wanted to read them in sequence but i mostly read them in the order the author wanted. It would be interesting to hear what others think. The story was very intriguing but I wasn't exactly thrilled with the ending. I don't want to give anything away but I had compassion for Cale Lambert the main character and was absorbed when reading the book. I do recommend it.
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  • Mikaela (Booklover1974)
    January 1, 1970
    This book was not for me. I didn't like the structure, the language and the characters. The jumping back and forth in the timelines didn't the book any favors, in my eyes. I'm convinced this book will be loved by others though!Thank you to the Publisher and Edelweiss for my free copy in exchange of my honest review.
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  • S
    January 1, 1970
    Tomar is a good writer - I was instantly sucked into this story about working class young women dealing with tragedy and trauma. I thought the non-linearity (the chapters are in non-sequential order) would be gimmicky but it works. It's clever in how it shows memory being non-linear, with multiple paths about different but equally important things.
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  • Jennifer Fosket
    January 1, 1970
    For the first two thirds of this book I loved it completely. The writing is gorgeous, the non-linear structure compelling. But in the last third the jumping around in time became confusing and the story lost momentum for me. By the time the various strands were resolved I stopped caring.
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