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RUCHIKA TOMAR discusses her debut novel A PRAYER FOR TRAVELERS with XUAN JULIANA WANG

A Prayer for Travelers (Riverhead Books)

In her debut novel, A Prayer for Travelers, Ruchika Tomar melds artful prose with a haunting narrative creating an arresting and electric portrait of the dangers of girlhood in the American desert west and how small towns try–– and often fail–– to protect their own. Already hailed by Lit Hub as “an indelible portrait of love, grief, and trauma” and one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2019, A Prayer for Travelers illuminates the heat and fury of girlhood and one’s own memory.

The Nevada landscape––a sun-steamed, desert West that you can practically feel blistering off the page––serves as a harsh yet glittery, gritty yet stunning backdrop for this coming-of-age saga. Cale is our guide: a young bookish loner with a voice as markedly determined as it is vulnerable. Set adrift for the first time in her life, Cale begins waitressing at the local diner, where she reconnects with Penelope Reyes, a charismatic former classmate and all-around hustler. 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 sets off on a dangerous quest across the desert to find her friend.

Told in short, deftly interwoven chapters, the novel eases the story into a disorienting, devastating unraveling and seamlessly blends together a portrait of a memory under siege and a girl, unflinchingly, reclaiming herself. On the structure of the novel Tomar says, “I began thinking about the way I or my friends tell stories—elliptically, episodically. When you’re telling a story out loud it’s very hard to remember every detail in order. In particular, if you’ve ever had to tell a story of trauma, or hold one for one of your friends, you know just how ragged and disjointed that experience is. The nature of trauma and grief is fracturing.”

A Prayer for Travelers is a stunning and imaginative debut that ushers in an essential new talent.

Praise for A Prayer for Travelers

“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

“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

“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

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.

Xuan Juliana Wang is the author of the debut short story collection, Home Remedies (Hogarth, May 2019). Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, Narrative, The Cut, The Brooklyn Rail and The Pushcart Prize and The Best American Nonrequired Reading anthologies. Juliana was a Wallace Stegner Fellow from Stanford University and earned her MFA from Columbia University. She has received fellowships and awards from Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Cite des Arts International, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Elizabeth George Foundation, and is the fiction editor at Fence. Juliana was born in Heilongjiang, China but after age seven, did most of her growing up in Los Angeles. She currently teaches at UCLA. 

Ruchika Tomar photo by Dan Doperalski

Xuan Juliana Wang photo by Ye Rin Mok

Event date: 
Tuesday, July 30, 2019 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
A Prayer for Travelers: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780525537014
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Riverhead Books - July 9th, 2019

Home Remedies: Stories Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781984822741
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Hogarth - May 14th, 2019