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.
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.
In Two Sisters, Norwegian journalist and writer Åsne Seierstad...tries to...turn the fanatical ghosts back into complex humans – by telling in intricate, compelling detail the story of one family dragged into Isis’s web of horror ... In her exploration of how and why Ayan and Leila abandoned their home for a distant war, Seierstad weaves a complex picture of their lives as young Norwegians ... Seierstad also teases out the sense of alienation that a distinct and different heritage can produce in a homogeneous society – Ayan’s exploration of her roots and religion, Leila’s isolation at school ... an unfolding human drama whose characters are compelling – from the strong-willed young women and desperate parents at the story’s heart to the shifting cast that surrounds them – womanising fundamentalists, well-meaning but clueless Norwegian teachers, the loyal Syrian smuggler with close ties to al-Qaida ... There is no update on the whereabouts of Leila or Ayan, giving the reader some sense of the void their parents and siblings stare into every day, wondering what happened to them, the two bright girls from Oslo.