One of my favorite words is “devolve”. It fits in with my other favorite words (disillusioned, disconcerting) and a phrase I’ve seen in almost every single one of my manuscripts (devolve into madness).
Trace Pennington is not devolving into madness. She’s evolving.
I picked up Haven Kimmel’s Iodine on Cassie’s recommendation (by the way, Cassie’s review is far more eloquent than mine). The inside cover flap paints it as a straightforward story: Trace Pennington is carving out a subsistence with her dog, Weeds, in an abandoned house near the town she grew up in. Attending college under the alias Ianthe Covington, she seems normal, or as normal as you can get when you’re hiding from…something.
And that’s just it. We don’t know what she’s hiding from. We never do.
The best, and easiest, way I can sum up this book is it’s like a David Lynch film. Specifically, Mulholland Falls. The first half of the film is easily understandable, if a little over the top. It’s the second half that makes little sense. You can piece parts of it together, but over all, you’re a bit lost.
Trace is keeping a dream journal, a requirement for one of her last classes before graduation. Her dreams are fractured and may or may not be memories of her early life, a life that must have been chaotic and traumatic. Her love for her father is summed up by the book’s first sentence, where she declares she would have slept with him, if he’d agreed.
When a book punches you in the gut like that in the opening paragraph, some people would be tempted to put it down. You shouldn’t.
Following Trace’s dreams is like walking through a mirror maze. The twists and turns are so confusing, you’re never sure what’s actually real and what’s not, let alone what’s going to happen next. After a while, you find you don’t really care. You’re enjoying yourself, getting lost.
Those dreams may be an indicator of Trace’s insanity.
Things get odd when Trace declares to her English prof that she is his fate, and he is hers. This is a pretty good indication of what’s to come.
Trace’s dream journal has missing pieces, and those missing pieces paint the picture of the crazy inside her. After a while, you get the sense that Trace isn’t just using Ianthe as an identity to keep her true self hidden. She’s becoming Ianthe, and you have to wonder if everything that came before was real, or if it was some twisted dream, not unlike Mulholland Falls.
I’ve probably given the impression I didn’t like the book. It’s a hard book to come out and say, yes, absolutely, I loved it, or no, I didn’t. The prose pulls you in, and when Trace rambles on in her journal about what happened to her family, you keep reading, hoping to uncover one more clue that might lead you to the answer of what happened to her. If it’s there, I never found it.
The most surprising thing about Iodine was how quickly it sped by. I raced from page to page, looking for all the little parts Trace broke off and left behind, like a trail to follow home. Except I’m not sure where home was, just like Trace.