Fifteen Minutes A Clever Character-Study

Susan Ellingburg

Author: Karen Kingsbury
Title: Fifteen Minutes
Publisher: Howard Books

If you had a shot at making your dreams come true . . . at using the gifts God gave you for His glory . . . would you take it? Even if you had to compromise a little here and there along the way? But of course, you wouldn’t compromise. You’d be strong. You’d be a shining star for Jesus, no matter what. Right?

That’s what Zach Dylan thought. When auditions for Fifteen Minutes (an American Idol-type show) came along, singer/songwriter/worship leader Zach decided to go for it. His family was not what you’d call supportive: they begged him not to go, worried about the effect fame would have on him. His almost-fiancée Reese was against the idea, too. But Zach . . . well, Zach had dreams of making it big and saving the family farm so off he goes to the big city to find fame and fortune. (Fortunately, it’s not quite as cheesy as that sounds.)

How far will Zach go to make his dreams come true? The compromises start almost immediately. One maybe isn’t such a big deal, then the next is kind of okay, but it’s a slippery slope and the producers keep it well-oiled with promises. One of the show’s judges—a former winner whose success cost her everything she held dear—tries to warn Zach about the price of fame, but will he listen? Or will he learn too late?

One of the joys of a Karen Kingsbury novel is her consistency as a writer. Readers know they can expect a beautifully-crafted novel with authentic spiritual journeys woven seamlessly into the story. Fifteen Minutes is no exception. While Zach struggles to hang on to his faith, girlfriend Reese is back home facing decisions of her own. Chandra, the judge who tries to keep Zach on track, has unresolved issues relating to her personal tragedy. Meanwhile another judge has her own problems; her life is falling apart in a very Hollywood way. Her preacher-father raised her to know better, but she walked away from her faith.

As you can see, Fifteen Minutes is packed with the kinds of characters Kingsbury is known for: Christians trying to live godly lives in difficult circumstances and unbelievers floundering in their search for meaning. If I had to pick on anything it’s that her characters—often including the ‘bad guys’ of the story—tend to be so very aw-shucks wholesome. They’re likeable people, just a bit too reminiscent of Mayberry RFD residents to ring completely true to my ear. But better that than the coarse ugliness many secular authors offer in the name of gritty reality, right? After all, reading fiction is meant to be an escape from reality and the folks in Kingsbury’s world will welcome readers with open arms.

However, Fifteen Minutes is more than mere escapism—it’s a thought-provoking look at character under fire set against the backdrop of a “reality” competition show most of us can imagine watching. It’s a book likely to provoke many “what would you do?” conversations. Plus it’s an easy-to-read story that won’t offend. No wonder Time magazine calls Karen Kingsbury the “Queen of Christian Fiction.”

*This Review First Posted 9/16/2013