An American novelist, she is particularly known for A Virtuous Woman and Ellen Foster. The latter work won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction.
She studied American and English literature at North Carolina State University and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She suffered from bipolar disorder and was able to write some of her best-known works (including Ellen Foster) during her highly creative manic phases.
She grew up in Nash County, North Carolina. She later had three daughters.
Here novels Ellen Foster and A Virtuous Woman were selected for Oprah Winfrey's Book Club.