Andrea Barrett was born in Boston in 1954, grew up on Cape Cod, and later attended Union College, where she graduated with a degree in biology. She began writing fiction seriously in her thirties and published her first novel, Lucid Stars, in 1988. In 1996, she received the National Book Award for her fifth book, Ship Fever, a collection of stories.
Barrett received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2001. Her short story collection Servants of the Map was a finalist for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Barrett teaches writing at Williams College and lives in North Adams, Massachusetts, with her husband, photographer Barry Goldstein.