Virginia Sorensen was born Virginia Eggertsen in Provo, Utah, in 1912 and spent the formative years from age five to thirteen in Manti, Utah. She graduated from American Fork High School, and later from Brigham Young University (1934), and she also studied at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and at Stanford University. She married Frederick Sorensen and lived in Terre Haute, Indiana, in Denver, Colorado, in Auburn, Alabama, and in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. After the dissolution of her marriage to Sorensen, she married the English writer Alec Waugh and lived with him in Morocco from 1967 to 1980, when she returned to the United States.
Sorensen's fiction writing reflects what she termed "the real dilemma of the novelist in our time and place . . . to somehow balance the importance of the individual . . . with the importance of the great events that wash people into vast groups and crowds, into anonymous armies." Her critically well received first novel, A Little Lower than the Angels (1942), deals with the beginnings of polygamy in Mormon Nauvoo. On This Star (1946), The Evening and the Morning (1949), Many Heavens (1954), and Where Nothing Is Long Ago (1963) all focus on conflicts between independent-minded individuals and Mormon small-town society.
Sorensen was twice awarded Guggenheim fellowships. The first resulted in The Proper Gods (1951), which follows the efforts of a deracinated Yaqui Indian to recover his ancestral traditions. A second Guggenheim supported research in Denmark that enabled Sorensen to write Kingdom Come (1960), an imaginative recreation of the lives of Danish converts to Mormonism during the 1850s. Her other adult novels are The Neighbors (1947) and The Man With the Key (1974).
Sorensen has also published seven books for children, beginning with Curious Missy (1953), which grew out of her efforts to establish a bookmobile program in Alabama. Child Study Award-winning Plain Girl (1955) explores the conflict between the individual and the community among the Amish of Pennsylvania. Miracles on Maple Hill (1957), which won the John Newbery Medal of the American Library Association, is also set in Pennsylvania. Virginia Sorensen died on 24 December 1991.