By Haven Kimmel
Iodine by Haven Kimmel, New York Times bestselling author, was a very disturbing book for me. I could not say I liked it, but I feel compelled to give it high praise for what Kimmel has created in this portrayal of her character, Trace Pennington. If you dare--enter her psychotic mind:
I never had sex with my father but I would have, if he had agreed." (p. 1)
The majority of Iodine comes to us in the form of journals. The excerpt above is how Kimmel opens her novel. Certainly attention getting--certainly a setup of what may be coming. Whether or not any of the interactions between Trace and her family members ever really happened, we cannot be sure of--what we do know for sure is that Trace Pennington believed everything that she wrote--at the time she wrote it. The false starts, again as demonstrated above, are also accompanied by failure to finish thoughts, beginning new thoughts in the middle of others, and various sidetracks of her ongoing thoughts.
Trace has a form of epilepsy that is not discovered, or even considered, until late in her life. Once she is medicated, she begins to realize and investigate what has been happening to her.
Where does a brilliant woman escape to when she is delusional or hallucinating? Even earlier, and perhaps more critical--where does she go to escape abuse from her own mother, who described her as a changeling?
Readers enter Trace's life during her time at university. She has created a persona, Ianthe Covington, who is now considering various Honors courses that will not only complete her degree but also provide her various minors in fields such as Women's Studies. It is quite obvious that she has read far beyond all requirements and, in fact, has exceeded the experience of some of her professors. Indeed, readers quickly become aware of the brilliance of the author, even though it is bizarrely portrayed through her central character.
While Ianthe is steadily moving toward her degree, Trace has left home and lives in an abandoned house with little money. It is there where she writes of visiting the Underworld, to meet with Pluto or Hekate. Or she might share her dreams and then her own interpretation of those dreams--or what interpretation Freud or Jung might provide.
Trace's mind seems to never stop and readers are thrown page by page into Greek mythology to Jung to Freud and back to Jung. Fortunately, Trace has Weeds as her totem, to provide stabilization to her life--her beloved dog, given to her by her beloved father...until...
One day, Ianthe sees and meets her "fate." He is one of her professors, Jacob Matthias. And, so, she discovers where he lives, goes there and waits on an outside porch until he comes home...to tell him so. Surprisingly, she just might be right this time! Indeed, she doesn't know how fateful he has been until, perhaps, the day she hears a doctor ask him how long they had been married. In her mind, she tried to say, four months. But she hears, surprised, when he responds "Four years and four months to the day." (p. 202)
Once I made it through some of her journal entries, I had become absorbed into Trace's life. It is then fascinating to sit back and watch her internal thoughts within the academic community, and her overwhelming brilliance as she explores Hades or her dreams and/or hallucinations of her parents. There is a realism that is beyond comprehension for many of us, yet the author has indeed placed us directly into the mind of this woman! It is truly amazing. It is disturbing. It is horrible. It is wondrous...
But no matter what, for me, Haven Kimmel's Iodine is one of the most memorable books I have ever read and it will continue to haunt me! Outstanding writing!
G. A. Bixler
for Amazon Vine Program