A popular American writer, she won the National Book Award for her 1998 novel, Charming Billy. Her other works include Child of My Heart: A Novel and the Pulitzer Prize-nominated 2006 work, After This.
She graduated from the State University of New York at Oswego in 1975 and went on to receive her master's degree from the University of New Hampshire.
Her short stories have been published by a number of magazines, including The New Yorker, Seventeen, and Mademoiselle.
With her husband, a neuroscientist, she had three children.
She and author Neil Algren both received National Book Awards for their work.