This novel explores the dark and terrifying world of delusion and madness. Kimmel uses an unreliable narrator to chaotic, shocking, and surreal effect. While Trace descends into madness, the reader struggles to untangle the threads of this story, but is rewarded by prose that is achingly beautiful, intelligent, lush, and challenging. Iodine is an amazing, fantastic, whirlwind of a character study, with an explosive ending. An absolutely stunning five-star read! Recommended By Dianah H., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Haven Kimmel, the #1 New York Times
bestselling author, has long attracted legions of fans for her insightful, humane portraits of outsiders struggling to find their place in the world. In Iodine
, her fourth novel, Kimmel once again draws on her exceptional powers of observation and empathy, but this time she makes an exhilarating foray into psychological gothic territory with the electrifying story of a young woman emerging from layers of delusion, fantasy, and lies. With her astounding intelligence, fierce independence, and otherworldly lavender eyes, college senior Trace Pennington makes an indelible impression even as questions about her past and her true identity hover over every page.
From her earliest years, Trace turned away from her abusive mother toward her loving father. Within the twisty logic of abuse, her desperate love for him took on a romantic cast that persists to this day, though she's had no contact with her family since she ran away from home years ago. Alone but for her beloved dog, she's eked out an impoverished but functional existence, living in an abandoned house, putting herself through college, and astonishing her teachers with her genius and erudition. What they don't know is that she leads a double life: thanks to forged documents, at school she is Ianthe Covington, a young woman with no past.
Trace's singular life is upended when she and her literature professor fall in love. She tells him nothing about her life, and as it becomes apparent that he has his own dark secrets, she's forced to face herself and her past. After recovering a horrific, long-suppressed memory, Trace finally copes with the fallout from her brutal, bizarre childhood. Kimmel parcels out Trace's strange, dark story in mesmerizing bits that obscure as much as they reveal, and keep the reader guessing until the end.
With Kimmel's radiant imagination, lyrical prose, and vision of a bleak and fertile Midwest on full display, Iodine is a frightening and marvelous tale of life at the outer extremes of human experience. This unique portrait of the psychological effects of trauma is tantalizing, shocking, and ultimately hopeful.
, the fourth novel by #1 New York Times
bestselling author Haven Kimmel, tells the terrifying story of a young woman emerging from layers of delusion, fantasy, and lies.
Brilliant, unconventional college senior Trace Pennington has eked out an impoverished, solitary, but highly functional existence in the years since she ran away from her abusive home. But when Trace finds love with a much older man, her life is upended and she's forced to face herself and her past. After recovering a horrific, long-suppressed memory, she discovers that much of her present-day life is a carefully constructed delusion. With equal parts genius and psychosis, Trace copes with the fallout from a brutal, bizarre childhood in a heart-stopping story that explores both the terror and wonder of mental illness.
Kimmel elevates the notion of the unreliable narrator to thrilling dimensions, parceling out Trace's strange, dark story in mesmerizing bits that obscure as much as they reveal, and keep the reader guessing until the end. In Iodine, Kimmel makes an exciting foray into psychological gothic territory, and her radiant imagination and lyrical prose are on full display here. This unique portrait of the emotional effects of trauma is tantalizing, shocking, and ultimately hopeful.
The fourth novel by New York Times-bestselling author Kimmel tells the terrifying story of a young woman who, after recovering a horrific, long-suppressed memory, discovers that much of her present-day life is a carefully constructed delusion.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Two Dogs
Chapter Two: Caduceus
Chapter Three: Pluto
Chapter Four: Oneirocritica
Chapter Five: Puella Aeterna
Chapter Six: Revenants
Chapter Seven: Nekyia
Chapter Eight: Kerberos
Chapter Mine: Eros
Chapter Ten: Familiaris
Chapter Eleven: HekateAcknowledgments
Reading Group Guide
1. The opening line of the first chapter is among the most shocking imaginable: "I never / I never had sex with my father but I would have, if he had agreed." What was your reaction to this confession? Did you make any assumptions about the narrator or anticipate what might follow?
2. What do you later learn about Trace's affections for her father? How does Colt respond to Trace's extreme adoration? Where do you think these feelings come from and do they carry into Trace's relationships in her adult life at all?
3. In their discussion about a man Candy hears on the radio claiming to have been abducted by aliens, the concept of "screen memory" is mentioned. Reread this passage (pp. 13-14) and define this term. Are there any examples of possible screen memories that Trace relays to the reader?
4. Describe Trace's relationship with her other immediate family members - her mother Loretta, her stepfather Marty, her brother Billy and her sister Dusty. What is your interpretation of the events that took place in regard to Marty in Trace's childhood? Do you view her as a victim, a martyr, a nymph, a hero, or simply an innocent little girl?
5. Just before Trace happens upon the Nation of Islam stockpiling center, Kimmel writes, "no one knew better than she how much there is to fear, and that the threat is never where you expect it to be." What are the threats in Trace's life? What does she fear? Do you think these fears represent a kind of paranoia or are justified?
6. In her dream journal entry on p.49 Trace writes, "the whole of the past, even what belongs to someone else, is not what happened but what happened to me; dreams are not autonomous, they are messages to me about me." What is Trace saying here about personal reflection and consciousness?
7. Trace records incredibly vivid dreams and memories, many of which include the presence of animals. What is the significance of these animal dreams? Are they comforting or frightening for Trace?
8. In the end we discover that Trace has seizures and a disassociative personality disorder. Is this something you suspected all along? How does this information color your reading of Trace's story? What is the traumatic event that launched her into this state?
9. Who is Ianthe Covington?
10. When the doctor asks Jacob and Trace how long they've been married, Trace thinks four months and Jacob says four years. What do you make of this gap in the perception of time?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Contact your book club members a week before meeting and encourage them to keep a dream journal for a week. See what interesting images emerge.
2. Do your homework and look up the terms that head each chapter. What relevance do these words have to the novel?
3. Read a bit about James Hillman, the psychologist who Trace frequently mentions, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hillman.