Two Sisters by Åsne Seierstad
A Father, His Daughters, and Their Journey into the Syrian Jihad

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What explains the appeal of such savagery? Seierstad deliberately proposes no answer, only the implied lesson, or reminder, that people may become so convinced of their own fictions that they experience vice as virtue and an inferno as paradise.
-Guardian

Synopsis

The riveting true story of two sisters’ journey to the Islamic State and the father who tries to bring them home

Two Sisters, by the international bestselling author Åsne Seierstad, tells the unforgettable story of a family divided by faith. Sadiq and Sara, Somali immigrants raising a family in Norway, one day discover that their teenage daughters, Leila and Ayan, have vanished—and are en route to Syria to aid the Islamic State. Seierstad’s riveting account traces the sisters’ journey from secular, social democratic Norway to the front lines of the war in Syria, and follows Sadiq’s harrowing attempt to find them.

Employing the same mastery of narrative suspense she brought to The Bookseller of Kabul and One of Us, Seierstad puts the problem of radicalization into painfully human terms, using instant messages and other primary sources to reconstruct a family’s crisis from the inside. Eventually, she takes us into the hellscape of the Syrian civil war, as Sadiq risks his life in pursuit of his daughters, refusing to let them disappear into the maelstrom—even after they marry ISIS fighters. Two Sisters is a relentless thriller and a feat of reporting with profound lessons about belief, extremism, and the meaning of devotion.

 

About Åsne Seierstad

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Asne Seierstad is an award-winning journalist who has reported from such war-torn regions as Chechnya, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
Published April 3, 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 434 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, War. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Two Sisters
All: 6 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 2

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Stephen J. Lyons on Apr 06 2018

“Two Sisters” offers readers that understanding without judgment, in a manner only great journalism can accomplish.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Suzy Hansen on May 04 2018

...we get few details regarding what he and Sara were like as parents. And although much of the book takes place in Norway, I didn’t emerge with a vivid sense of why the girls rejected it. Seierstad shows the Norwegian teachers struggling with the girls’ lifestyle choices...but she never pulls back and describes Norway in her own words...

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Parul Sehgal on Apr 03 2018

But in general, the sisters and their transformations remain hazy, especially the strong-willed Ayan. At one point, her school essays sound like outtakes from “SCUM Manifesto,” by the radical feminist Valerie Solanas.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Emma Graham-Harrison on Mar 27 2018

For a factual account, some of Seierstad’s descriptions can seem almost too detailed...But Seierstad and Sadiq spent many hours in conversation and the sense of place and time the author conjures makes Two Sisters more than a factual exploration of radicalisation.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Robin Yassin-Kassab on Mar 21 2018

What explains the appeal of such savagery? Seierstad deliberately proposes no answer, only the implied lesson, or reminder, that people may become so convinced of their own fictions that they experience vice as virtue and an inferno as paradise.

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NPR

Good
Reviewed by Michael Schaub on Apr 04 2018

It's a stunning account of the radicalization of two young people, and their voyage from daughters of a moderate Muslim family to unrepentant members of the militant group ISIS.

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