Mary Alice Monroe began her writing career studying journalism and writing nonfiction and for newspapers for hire. She began studying Asian culture after a trip to Japan with her husband and was later awarded a fellowship, became bilingual in Japanese and earned her master's degree. She has helped establish a government-funded English as a Second Language program for Southeast Asian refugees. Monroe has also co-authored an English-language survival text.
Monroe wrote her first novel while confined to bed rest for her final months of pregnancy. Her book The Long Road Home made the New York Times bestseller list for 2010. She is now known primarily for her fiction work which is heavily influenced by her move to South Carolina's Lowcountry. Monroe enjoys nature and is involved with several environmental groups, including the board of the South Carolina Aquarium.
Monroe lives with her family on a barrier island off South Carolina.