He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marlboro College in 1969 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from The Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1971. He published The Last Fair Deal Going Down (Atlantic Little Brown, 1972), The Easter House (Harper & Row, 1974), Rock Island Line (Harper & Row, 1975), and Driftless (Milkweed Editions, 2008).
In 1977, Rhodes suffered a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Driftless is his first book since his return to publishing.
Rhodes lives with his wife, Edna, in rural Wonewoc, Wisconsin.