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Trace Pennington was a victim of childhood abuse. Her mother, an
evil persona, was the abuser, while her father was the kindly
parent to whom Trace turned most often. Having run away from home
as a young girl, she carries with her a vision of her dad as a
romantic ideal, a prince among men, although her contact with him
has been nil. When she enters college, she works hard, paying for
it herself, holding down jobs, getting excellent marks and high
regards from her professors.

Although her home life is pretty desperate (she squats in an
abandoned home a la Fight Club and lives only with her old dog),
she invents for herself a life as Ianthe Covington, a smart, brave
and furtive young woman who has no discernible or documentable
past. With her usual Flannery O'Connor-esque finesse, Haven Kimmel
infuses IODINE with a sense of mystery that sustains the narrative
all the way through and a protagonist who is one of the more
original she's ever created.

The entire house of cards threatens to come crashing down when
Kimmel introduces an equally mysterious character: Trace's
literature professor/lover. Without giving any details about her
own life, they embark on a mad and passionate affair. However, soon
she realizes that he has a past, a past filled with dark and
brooding secrets. Faced with his sad history, she experiences a
horrible flashback to a long-quashed situation from her bizarre
childhood. This is where Kimmel employs her puzzle-piece approach
to character enrichment. Little by little, parts of Trace's
increasingly dark past are revealed until the reader, playing Clue
with the clues the whole time, finally gets the entire nasty

The most interesting piece of the puzzle is the dream journal
whose details give the book its dark and moody demeanor. The
novel’s first line is from this journal, a provocative
statement that sets the stage for the disturbing realities behind
Trace's past: "I never had sex with my father but I would have, if
he had agreed." A mother with hair "the color of a ripe cantaloupe
mixed with blood" haunts the rest of the story without ever
actually appearing in it. And, somehow, Kimmel once again projects
this darkness, these O'Connor-esque flashes, onto a sprawling
midwestern plain, an Indiana made of gothic swatches more common in
southern or New England literary terrains. It is Kimmel's saving
grace that her voice is as robust and rich as any of those well
known for harvesting those darker milieus. Yet Trace can grate on
one's nerves, her frightening past and her difficult present
running amuck the purple prose.

Kimmel fashions a substantial experience for the reader out of
these untoward elements. IODINE becomes a salve for what could have
been a festering bleakness and, instead, becomes a slight ray of
hope that there is some sun in Trace's profoundly sad

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on April 27, 2011

by Haven Kimmel

  • Publication Date: August 18, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • ISBN-10: 1416572953
  • ISBN-13: 9781416572954