An American novelist, literary critic, and essayist, she is most famous for her 1985 novel, In Country, which was made into a feature film. Her other works include numerous short story collections and The Girl Sleuth, a feminist critique of Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins.
She graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in English and subsequently received a PhD in literature from the University of Connecticut. In between college and graduate school, she worked for several New York magazines and wrote articles about celebrities.
She published her first short story in The New Yorker in 1980.
She grew up on a farm near Mayfield, Kentucky. She later married Roger Rawlings.
She was a recipient of an Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award.