In Plenty Good Room by Cheri Paris Edwards, main character Tamara Britton is a single thirty-something African American woman living on her own. She has a good life and makes a living working for Care for Kids Agency as a specialist in its child protective unit. She has a few friends through work, mainly Lynette and Jayson, but otherwise her life is quiet.
Then along comes Sienna Larson. Tamara’s boss asks her to take in this teenager who has been part of the foster family system all her life, and soon Tamara's own life is turned upside-down. She finds that taking care of a teenager is a lot of work, upsetting the daily routine that Tamara has gotten used to. Sienna acts up at home and at school, does anything outrageous just to get attention, and doesn't seem to understand that much of her behavior is inappropriate. As Tamara is a timid, non-confrontational type of person, she is having a hard time dealing with this teenager who is almost out of control.
Tamara does her best to deal with the situation. Her friend Denise Jackson, who has been a foster parent to tons of children, gives Tamara advice and support, convincing Tamara to attend church services along with Sienna, whom they have found has a gift for singing. Truly, Tamara's life has changed since meeting Sienna. Some of the changes are bad, but there is some good as well. The one thing she gains is a newfound faith in God, which is helping her deal with Sienna and confront some ghosts from her own past that will not stop haunting her. She has also met some new friends, including Isaiah Perry, a good-looking gentleman who happens to be one of Sienna’s teachers at school.
While Sienna and Tamara’s is the main story, a minor subplot has Tamara searching on behalf of her friend Yvette, who has never known her own parents. Tamara wants to help Yvette find her biological parents as a way to say “thank you” to Yvette for being her friend, and for being the reason why Tamara is now working to help other children growing up in unstable family environments. Tamara uses her resources to locate people who may have known Yvette's parents, and what she learns throws her for a loop.
Running parallel to Tamara and Sienna’s story is that of a young runaway girl whose identity is withheld until the end of the novel. Some readers may be able to guess who she is ahead of that revealing moment as it makes a lot of sense by the end of the book. Everything is tied together in a satisfactory conclusion.
While the story holds the reader’s interest from beginning to end and engenders empathy with its characters, the writing could be tighter. The parallel story lines feel a bit awkward, and it is hard to tell whether both stories are happening at the same time or if one actually happened in the past. It seems to have been the author’s intention to leave these things vague, but it is distracting to continuously return to previous chapters to clarify what has just been read. The story is good, but the structure of the book could have been better.