Personable, gregarious, peripatetic, Jane Howard plunged into this book on Women, U.S.A. with boundless enthusiasm and very little planning. Thirty-six, unmarried and ""hyperactive,"" she felt herself ""unmoored"" by the feminist tidal wave. A good enough reason to find out where her sisters -- ""women and ladies and girls and gals and broads and chicks and matrons in zip codes all over the country"" -- were at. ""Few whom I talked to were especially famous or especially militant or especially anything"" and that's the terrific thing about this liberated, apple-pie book. For Ms. Howard they're all just folks; easily and naturally she incorporates them into her own mishpocheh, bringing in family, old roommates, and her midwestern younger self -- the one who, please God, was to ""settle down some day with a big, handsome, wonderful hunk of an Ivy Leaguer."" And though it never quite happened that way, Howard has retained her regional accent and bouyancy. She can talk to Doris the waitress in Trinidad, California, or Tildy the wife of a disabled West Virginia miner, or Ken Kesey's mother, or Sylvia the lawyer from Baton Rouge, woman to woman, friend to friend. About their lovers and husbands, their jobs and how they spend their money and what they would do differently if they had it all to do again -- and remarkably none of it becomes stale or trite or repetitious. You may wonder when you've finished how much of the spirited, wholesome nonconformism she sees in the woman she talks to is really a projection of self. Because it's her girl scout daredevilry which appeals most in this freewheeling, affirmative book which concludes nothing in particular but presents a marvelous patchwork of diverse lifestyles, opinions and credos. So many of these women are neither alienated nor apologetic. On the contrary, they're sure and proud of their identity and worth.