An American short story writer and novelist, she is particularly known for Why Did I Ever, a novel that won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2001. Her other works include Oh!; Subtraction; Believe Them: Stories; and An Amateur's Guide to the Night.
After graduating from Ohio State University and Johns Hopkins University, she taught at several colleges and universities, including Oberlin and Harvard.
She won the prestigious Rea Award for the Short Story in 2009.
She was born in Washington, D.C. to a lawyer father and a psychologist mother. Her first marriage produced two daughters; her second marriage was to fellow writer James Robison.
Her minimalist writing style is often compared to that of Raymond Carver.