three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
37-Nov-Dec-2008
By: 
Haven Kimmel
user_rating: 
0
Award Year: 
0

A-IodineThe New York Times best-selling author Haven Kimmel (A Girl Named Zippy, 2002; The Used World, 4 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2008) returns with her fourth effort, Iodine, a byzantine examination of a tortured young psyche.

The Story: Living in an abandoned Indiana farmhouse with only her dog to keep her company, Trace Pennington fills the hours fascinated with the psychological writings of Freud and Jung. A young, loner college student with an abusive mother, a sexual obsession with her father, and a troubled past, Trace attends her classes under the assumed identity of Ianthe Covington, even going so far as to fulfill her dream journal assignment for both characters. However, an affair with a professor during her senior year serves as the catalyst for a cascade of memories, secrets, and events that threaten to shatter both of her existences.
Free Press. 240 pages. $24. ISBN: 1416572848

Portland Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Finally learning the secret at the heart of Iodine is akin to the ‘aha’ moment at the end of The Sixth Sense. You want to go back to the beginning and reopen the whole can of worms, looking for clues you missed the first time around." Christine Selk

Chicago Sun-Times 3 of 5 Stars
"The narrative veers from point to point so erratically that, like the protagonist, the reader has a hard time figuring out exactly what did happen. Luckily, the writing makes up for it." Kit Reed

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"There is something deeply unsettling about Iodine, Haven Kimmel’s latest novel. It’s not that the novel is particularly shocking per se—surprising since the first line is a stunner: ‘I never had sex with my father but I would have, if he had agreed.’ Instead, it’s the sense of manipulation that rises so that you’re never quite sure if you’re dealing with an unreliable narrator or a deceptive author." Tod Goldberg

Charlotte Observer 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Some writers, like some actors, are loathe to be typecast, but it’s unfortunate that Kimmel’s sense of humor is utterly absent from these pages. Iodine is a clever but grim tale." Pat MacEnulty

Seattle Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"It is a profoundly disturbing book and could not be more different from the memoir of a happy childhood that made Kimmel famous, A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana. … It is intriguing to piece together Trace’s life, but as her plight becomes clearer, the book becomes less interesting and more of a slickly written and gratuitous psychological horror story." Melissa Allison

Critical Summary

Known particularly for the humor, wit, and charming characters that are perhaps best illustrated in A Girl Named Zippy (2002), Haven Kimmel abandons these trademarks almost entirely in Iodine, much to the general disappointment of her followers. Instead, she has crafted a dark and complex tale of duel personalities that confuses, rather than clarifies, the condition of the psychologically troubled. An unreliable narrator who reveals her story through fragmented dream journals, combined with a twisted plot line, contributes to the confusion. Yet the novel remains grounded in its striking prose, its unique portrayal of mental illness, and, most important, its captivating main character, Trace Pennington.