The Accidental Terrorist
Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary
Finalist for the 2015 Association for Mormon Letters Award
“This just may be my favorite true-life amazing-but-true tale—never has threatening an aircraft been funnier or more thought-provoking.” —Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother and Homeland
“I devoured the more than four hundred pages of this memoir in what was essentially one sitting . . . A welcome addition to the library of Mormon autobiography—educational and highly entertaining.” —Richard Packham, Dawning of a Brighter Day
1987. A faltering missionary named Bill Shunn lands himself in a Canadian jail, facing charges of hijacking and the prospect of life behind bars.
1844. A frontier prophet named Joseph Smith lands himself in an Illinois jail, facing charges of treason and the prospect of imminent lynching.
What binds these two men together? This riveting memoir—by turns hilarious, provocative and thrilling—answers that question in style, weaving from their stories a spellbinding tapestry of deception, desperation and defiance. Answer its call and you’ll never look at a Mormon missionary the same way again.
“You will read few other books as smart, funny, honest, and heartbreaking as The Accidental Terrorist, and I unreservedly recommend it to you as both a home-grown cautionary tale and a highly original coming-of-age saga.” —Michael Bishop, author of Ancient of Days and editor of A Cross of Centuries
“The book grabs you on page one and never lets go. Fantastically written, beautifully paced, The Accidental Terrorist reads like a novel instead of a memoir. Only in novel form, no one would have ever believed these events could have happened. Believe it. William Shunn lived every word of this book. That he can share it so eloquently is a tribute not just to his writing skill, but his strengths as a human being.” —Kristine Kathryn Rusch, USA Today bestselling author
Software developer and writer Shunn fumbles this account of his mishaps as a youthful Mormon missionary, overloading the narrative with digressions. As a young adult, Shunn succumbed to pressure from his overbearing father to serve as a Mormon missionary. After an early graduation from high school and a clandestine, rushed engagement, Shunn finds himself in Canada knocking on doors, looking for converts, lying about the numbers he must report, and trying to avoid forbidden pleasures as he pursues his real ambition of becoming a prolific science fiction writer. The "terrorism" alluded to in the title refers to the childish (but criminal) mistake Shunn makes of lying about a bomb threat on a plane to keep a fellow missionary from fleeing their ministry assignment. Apart from this early tense scene, the book is mostly bogged down by excessive detail, and never gains a clear focus in terms of the overarching storyline or ethical vision. Interspersed snapshots of Mormonism's history only add to the confusion and density of this overlong memoir.