Born in Binghamton, New York she immigrated to Canada in 1959, where she attended and later taught at the University of British Columbia. From 1964 to 1966 she lived in Ghana, an experience which has had a deep impact on her work. In 1987 she won the Marian Engel Award for her body of work.
She has three times received the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, for Intertidal Life (1984), Wild Blue Yonder (1990), and Coming Down from Wa (1995). In 2008, she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
- Mrs. Blood - 1970
- Munchmeyer and Prospero on the Island - 1971
- Songs My Mother Taught Me - 1973
- Blown Figures - 1974
- Latakia - 1979
- Intertidal Life - 1984 (nominated for a Governor General's Award)
- Graven Images - 1993
- Coming Down from Wa - 1995 (nominated for a Governor General's Award)
- Isobel Gunn - 1999
- Local Customs - 2014
- Ten Green Bottles - 1967
- ladies and escorts - 1977
- Real Mothers - 1981
- Two in the Bush and Other Stories - 1981
- Goodbye Harold, Good Luck - 1986
- The Wild Blue Yonder - 1990
- The Path of Totality - 2001
- Eugene Benson and William Toye, eds. The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997. p. 1113.
- "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada".