An American fiction writer, he is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-nominated debut novel, Leaving the Land. His other works include Looking for War (a 2004 short story collection) and Voices from Silence (a 1995 novel).
After graduating from the University of Chicago and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he worked as an editor for several prominent literary journals.
He taught creative writing at both Syracuse University and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
He was born in Idaho. He later married Amy Burk Unger.
He and Ann Patchett both attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop.