She graduated from Wellesley College with a B.A. in English literature in 1966. After a brief time in the publishing industry, she moved to Hinesburg, Vermont to raise her daughter. According to Ms. Alther, she wrote two novels, a host of short stories, and received "hundreds of rejection slips" between age 16 and 30, before Kinflicks was accepted for publication.
Alther is the author of five novels, Kinflicks, Original Sins, Other Women, Bedrock, and Five Minutes In Heaven, as well as a small number of published short stories and many magazine articles.
Alther's most recent book, published in spring 2007, is a nonfiction work titled Kinfolks: Falling Off the Family Tree--the Search for My Melungeon Ancestors (ISBN 1-55970-832-8).