Wharton was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1943. He was inducted into the school's Wall of Fame in 1997. His first novel Birdy was published in 1978 when he was more than 50 years old. Birdy was a critical and popular success, and Alan Parker directed a film version starring Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine. After the publication of Birdy and through the early 1990s, Du Aime published eight novels, including Dad and A Midnight Clear, both of which were also filmed, the former starring Jack Lemmon.
Many of the protagonists of Wharton's novels, despite having different names and backgrounds, have similar experiences, attitudes, and traits that lead one to presume that they are partly autobiographical . There is precious little certifiable biography available about Wharton or Du Aime. He served in France and Germany in World War II in the 87th Infantry Division, is (or was) a painter, spent part of his adult life living on a houseboat as an artist in France, raised several children (not all of whom appreciated his philosophy of child-rearing), is a reasonably skilled carpenter and handyman, and has suffered from profound gastrointestinal problems.
In 1988, Wharton's daughter, Kate; his son-in-law, Bert; and their two children, two-year-old Dayiel and eight-month-old Mia, were killed in a horrific 23-car motor vehicle accident near Albany, Oregon, that was caused by the smoke generated by grass-burning on nearby farmland. In 1994, Wharton wrote a (mostly) non-fiction book, Ever After, in which he recounts the incidents leading up to the accident, his family's subsequent grief, and the three years he devoted to pursuing redress in the Oregon court system for the field-burning that caused the accident. Houseboat on Seine, a memoir, was published in 1996, about Wharton's purchase and renovation of a houseboat.
The following titles only published in Polish - includes English translation of title
"Beyond the Closet" was also published in Bulgarian with the title "Отвъд килера" (2007)