Cale Lambert was raised by her loving grandfather, 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 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.
Told in non-chronological chapters, Tomar’s debut leads the reader through pivotal moments in Cale’s life. The tension builds as the story weaves around incidents that Cale has hinted at previously. Through the lives of Cale and Penny, Tomar explores themes of family, love, and female-specific trauma. While at times the recurring motif of boundaries can feel overdone, Tomar succeeds in creating a suspenseful, haunting, coming-of-age story about a young woman facing an uncertain future.
An exploration of the intimate and powerful friendships between women is at the novel’s center ... The winding path of the timeline, with chapters that careen back and forth rapidly, propels the story and amplifies the suspense ... Despite her absence, Penny is a fully realized character whose perfectly rendered dialogue and mannerisms create an indelible image. She feels fully alive through Cale’s recollections, and we see that Cale’s quest to find her is also a quest to understand someone who, despite their closeness, remained a cipher ... It is in the exploration of Penny and Cale’s disparate reactions to the violation that A Prayer for Travelers is at its most breathtaking ... Tomar has done justice to a portrait of two young women coming of age in a world full of hard men and has created a world where the brutality of the landscape is matched by the circumstances that her characters live in ... as much a story of the American West as it is a meditation on the lives of young women.
The missing-person mystery at the heart of this riveting coming-of-age novel, Tomar’s debut, gives it a suspenseful edginess ... As excellently drawn by Tomar, Cale and Penny are fierce survivors whose determination to escape their dead-end town and its stultifying way of life pulls the reader relentlessly along. Their story makes for a dramatic and vivid tale about people chafing against the desperation of their circumstances.