An abused child whose poor grip on reality is balanced, at times, by her superior intelligence, Trace Pennington reinvents herself as Ianthe Covington, and enters college. There she manages some kind of normalcy, but lives in an abandoned farmhouse with her dog Weeds, barely existing except in the academic life she seemingly relishes.
When she meets and falls in love with a professor, Jacob Matthias, she drops out (in her senior year) and is seemingly absorbed into his life. But his dark secrets collide with her own and send her spiraling downward until, in flashes of memory or fantasy, we’re not sure which, she recalls the tragic finale to her childhood life and family.
Disturbing, intellectually challenging and gripping, Iodine: A Novel portrays the interior world of a psychotic woman, even as it gradually reveals the brutal, bizarre childhood that defined her.
This story sometimes had me spinning on the edge of reality, confused at times by Trace/Ianthe’s voice; in the end, I concluded that her perspective is her reality. The slippage of time, events, and the blurring between the past, the present, and some fantasy world…all combine to depict this young woman’s psyche and what defined her. Yet throughout, the reader can never know what is real, what is imagined, and what is simply the product of a disturbed mind.
Kimmel writes with brilliant prose and imagery, but I found this story confusing. However, I recommend it to those who revel in family dysfunction, and mental illness, and award it four stars.