An American novelist, he is best known for America by Land; A Trail of Heart's Blood Wherever We Go; Soft Water; and Coal Black Horse. He received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1989.
He attended Davidson College on a football scholarship and later transferred to Syracuse University, where he studied literature.
His 2007 novel, Coal Black Horse, won both the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction and the Ohioana Book Award for Fiction.
He grew up on a New Hampshire farm. He later taught at Dickinson College, Boise State University, and Converse College.
He studied with author Raymond Carver at Syracuse University.