Graver was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She received her B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1986, and her M.F.A. from Washington University in St. Louis in 1999. She also did graduate work at Cornell University. A recipient of fellowships from Guggenheim Foundation, The MacDowell Colony, and The National Endowment for the Arts, she has been a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Boston College since 1993. Married to civil writers lawyer James Pingeon, Graver is the mother of two young daughters.
Graver writes character-driven psychological fiction set in a wide variety of times and places, as well as more experimental short fiction, and non-fiction essays on a variety of subjects. One novel, Unravelling, is set in 19th-century America in the Lowell Textile Mills and tells the story of a fiercely independent young woman and the life she eventually fashions for herself. The Honey Thief, a contemporary novel, explores a mother/daughter relationship, as well as the fall-out of living with--and losing--a mentally ill father. In Awake, Graver uses the genetic disease Xeroderma Pigmentosum to explore a mother's relationships with her sons, her husband and, eventually, her lover; the novel is set at a camp for children with this rare disease. In a review of Unravelling in The New York Times Book Review, Benjamin DeMott wrote, "Exceptional . . . Intensely imagined, right-valued, memorable." In a Chicago Tribune review of The Honey Thief, John Gregory Brown wrote, "One of our finest writers on the grand drama of simply growing up."