PLENTY GOOD ROOM

Cherie Paris Edwards, Author
Cherie Paris Edwards, Author . Warner/Walk Worthy $23.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-446-57647-5
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The protagonist of this debut novel is Tamara Britton, a reserved, devoted child welfare worker. The 30-something's quiet, tidy life is turned upside-down when her boss asks her to temporarily take in a foul-mouthed teen runaway named Sienna. During this stint as a foster mom, Tamara has to supervise homework, discuss teenage sexuality and wade into the murky world of pop culture. She is also motivated to put together some of the pieces of her own interrupted childhood and travels to prisons and hospitals in search of birth parents she never knew. Edwards richly develops the novel's characters, especially those who play supporting parts. Tamara's outrageous friend and colleague, Lynette, is a hoot, and Lynette and Tamara's sharply dressed but racist boss is well drawn. Still, the novel is far from perfect. The two plots—Tamara and Sienna's relationship, and Tamara's own childhood—tie together at the end, but the connections require coincidences that strain credulity. The stock features of CBA fiction are all predictably there: Tamara, who has never dated, is suddenly wooed by two fine men. And she not only finds love but also her faith—at a church altar call. This contribution to the flourishing field of African-American Christian fiction is promising, though it also suffers from first-timer flaws. (Apr. 20)

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