An American author of southern-themed literature and historical fiction, she is known for works such as Dreams of Sleep, The Fireman's Fair, and Nowhere Else on Earth. Her 1987 novel Rich in Love was made into a film starring Albert Finney.
She studied creative writing at Duke University and later attended both Yale University and the University of Texas.
Her 1984 novel Dreams of Sleep won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award.
She grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. She married Tom Hutcheson.
She and Adrian Piper both received Guggenheim fellowships.