Seierstad structures the book perfectly, with sections examining the sisters' radicalization intertwined with their father's desperate bid to recover them ... She paints a fascinating and even-handed picture of Ayan and Leila's growing fundamentalism, but she doesn't claim to know what exactly caused their conversion ... She also does a deft job of capturing the emotions of the principals in the story — not just the sisters, but also Sadiq, whose life is essentially destroyed by his daughters' journey to ISIS ... Two Sisters is nearly impossible to stop reading. She's a master at pacing, and writes with an admirable clarity that manages to be empathetic without ever descending into mawkishness. And her translator, Seán Kinsella, does a wonderful job making the book accessible to English-language readers ... Two Sisters is a fascinating, heartbreaking, and, finally, urgently necessary book.
Hauntingly written, this book is both a masterpiece and a masterclass in investigative journalism — Seierstad helpfully even gives notes on the process at the end ... Most of all, this is a portrayal of the effect of the girls’ departure on their family: their eldest brother, Ismael, abandons religion, while their mother returns to her native Somalia, taking her two youngest with her ... The main protagonist is really [the girls' father] Sadiq and his almost Shakespearean descent into despair.
'We were blind. We thought it would pass. Now we know better. ' This admission is tucked away at the very end, in an afterword. It explains the prickling feeling you might have while reading the book that information is being withheld, that Seierstad knows more than she’s telling ... Seierstad is at her best when she pans out to consider the variety of reasons Western women join ISIS (by 2013, there were 3,000 Westerners in Syria, several hundred of them women), drawn by a hunger for sisterhood, adventure and membership in a society they felt was colorblind — where shared allegiances were more important than race ... Extremism more often follows crises in identity and in community, when other narratives of making sense of the self have fallen away. This is what becomes obvious every time the sisters in Seierstad’s book flicker into focus, when their voices can be heard, unmediated. This story of theirs has yet to be told — despite the resonant clues they left along the way — and even as it promises to be repeated by others.