A brightly gabby, glinty first novel--which superficially jabs at the consciousness of a young woman who's plugging away at guilts, depressive passivity, and a closed life. ""Home was where the heart beat wings against the walls""--and home for Jane Hurdle is the small town of Hammond, Indiana, where the nothing lives of her family seem to invite a meaningless mortality: her steel-worker father withers away to death when Jane is nine; her sweetly openhearted, doomed brother Dick, whose first wife deserts him and the baby, is killed in the same mill; her defenseless, nagging mother can't understand that ""what was good enough"" for her isn't enough for Jane. So life is drear until Jane discovers the clarinet and takes lessons from Mr. Schunk, a brilliant German-Jewish refugee who--ill, dying, unable to play because of arthritis--chooses to ""live in the gracious house of the mind."" A music scholarship at 16 takes Jane to Indiana U.--an alien experience (her mother had ""never had a roommate; she'd never taken theory . . . I hadn't followed in her footsteps and I didn't ring up fruit')--and, having had an earlier kooky sexual initiation, she now finds love with Olympic swimmer Kelly. But he wants to marry and have babies, and Jane sees that as a backtrack to the mortality of Hammond; she's really after ""immortality."" So, on the griefstricken rebound from Kelly, she marries her 44-year-old theory teacher, Ben Gabriel, the divorced father of three and a fine, failed pianist: after 14 years of marriage they will hate each other--particularly when Ben's career slides and Jane, too long exploited, joins an orchestra, plays two major festivals as principal clarinet, cuts a record, and lands a contract with the N.Y. Philharmonic. Finally, then, Jane decides to divorce Ben--but she still feels responsible for the sad lives of her family, her own unlovableness . . . until, in Colorado, Mr. Schunk's grandson David points to liberation, the possibility of an open-ended life, and a new angle on that old career vs. baby choice. A Redbook novel for November, this has all those popular recognitions--the flaying guilts of Leaving Home, career vs. kids, silly-to-super sex, pajama-party confessions--and its brash appeal will find a built-in audience.