Aspects of this book reminded me of both Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye and
Patricia McKillip's Stepping from the Shadows. All three books seem rather
autobiographical in some respects (although certainly not others).
In Cloven Hooves, a girl, growing up in wild Alaskan countryside,
independent but rather neglected, has as her playmate a faun, whom she
(rather unoriginally) calls Pan. When she gets older, she convinces
herself that this was an 'imaginary playmate' and struggles to 'fit in' to
society. She marries, and has a son. As the book opens, she's flying with
her family on an extended visit to her husband's family, where her husband
is needed to help out on the farm after his brother-in-law was injured.
However, once there, the family sets their claws in. She can't stand any
of them. They are trendily fashionable, have execrable taste, are bigoted
and controlling. But her husband seems to have no idea or no caring about
the depth of her misery, and sees no reason why they shouldn't stay - even
permanently. But then the faun comes back. He's been waiting for her...
and is absolutely, physically real. But it may take tragedy for events to
run their course.
Evelyn, the main character, is drawn amazingly well in this book. She
makes some decisions in her life that I certainly would not, but
everything she did was absolutely true to character. I believed that what
she did was how she would really behave at all times (as opposed to some
books, where you find yourself screaming 'just DTMFA!', etc.) ;-)
The style of storytelling here is frank and realistic. The themes are
rather similar to that of the other two Megan Lindholm books I've read so
far (The Reindeer People and Wolf's Brother): motherhood, wilderness
survival, and female independence and self-sufficiency, in the face of
controlling elements. (They really are quite different from the books she's published under the name Robin Hobb).