COMPULSIVELY READABLE: Tomar is a hypnotic writer with a gift for indelible characters and settings—you can practically feel the desert heat blistering off her pages—and a daring stylist who uses an audacious, disorienting story structure to keep readers guessing until the very end.
FRESH, SHARP-EDGED COMING-OF-AGE DRAMA: A Prayer for Travelers is an arresting and electric portrait of girlhood; of how small towns try—and often fail—to protect their own. Tomar is pitch-perfect on the almost savage intensity of youthful female friendships, and unapologetic on female sexuality, the way it can be a weapon or a danger—and often both.
COMPLICATED FEMALE CHARACTERS: Penny and Cale are vulnerable and reckless, hopeful and haunted, both bucking against the constraints of their small town, their prescribed fates, trying to do more than just survive. Even in their darkest, messiest moments, we’re rooting for them.
EXTRAORDINARY SENSE OF PLACE: As with Claire Vaye Watkins’s Gold Fame Citrus, the landscape is a character in its own right: the harsh and beautiful desert West, a world of sun-blanched diners, smoky casinos, mobile homes and hourly-rate motels. Tomar writes with deep understanding of these little towns and their people.
A WRITER TO WATCH: A Stegner Fellow at Stanford—like Otessa Moshfegh and Justin Torres—Tomar demonstrates a rare maturity and command in her writing. A Prayer for Travelers was acquired in a pre-empt from Joy Harris (agent for Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling), and we expect it to be greeted as the debut of a major new voice.
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“[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
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