This gripping narrative is a kind of parallel biography of two controversial women, both Muslim, who ended up taking radical and radically different approaches to the West and to their faith. While Pakistani-born, MIT-educated neuroscientist Aafia al-Siddiqui became an even more convinced Islamist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali made her name as an atheist equating Islam with oppression -- by definition. One is probably well known by name here; the other not. "To her followers, each woman is an icon; her legend will always be more alluring than her reality." And Scroggins has done a pretty good job contrasting the legend with the reality, although her success was doomed to be limited by the very nature of Pakistani political culture -- being unable to speak with the Siddiqui family or get to the bottom of Aafia's "lost years" inevitably limits her ability to completely portray that woman's life, whereas Ayaan Hirsi Ali led her life in the glow of the public eye. But in both cases, Scroggins gets behind the public hysteria, both pro and con, to calmly and coolly present the facts. In Aafia's case, that was less surprising to me; while I wasn't familiar with much more than her name, I'm familiar enough with the basics of political Islam to understand the context; the surprise was in the degree to which she became part of the West, studying and living in the United States for a decade and raising two children here, and yet living a parallel life, in a way. Scroggins' portrayal of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, on the other hand, is almost certain to be controversial -- but again, the research is painstaking and her conclusions are a reminder of the dangers of inhabiting a black and white world. To Ayaan, there can never be any such thing as a moderate Muslim; it's a contradiction in terms, and understandably, that infuriates the millions of moderate Muslims. Certainly, she is a polarizing figure, and it's arguable that while she initially claimed to be trying to obtain justice for Muslim women, she ended up creating at atmosphere where they would be unable to do so, both by radicalizing her opponents and by winning support for the idea that Islam is an evil religion, and a woman who chooses to remain a believer is choosing oppression and thus (implicitly) not worthy of support. I was familiar with the controversies surrounding Ali's refugee status in the Netherlands and her arrival in the United States; I wasn't aware of all the nuances surrounding that. Looking at her writings, I've long wondered about whether she is really a "scholar" -- she seems to be writing the same thing, over and over again -- but because of what it is that she is saying, there is a will to believe that she is, even when her writings are proven incorrect. Ultimately, this should be a reminder to anyone who wants to place a halo on anyone's head -- that charisma should always be met with a matter-of-fact analysis. True, as Scroggins points out, Ayaan Hirsi Ali doesn't advocate murder; words are her weapons. In contrast, Aafia al-Siddiqui was plotting (albeit unsuccessfully) mayhem and mass destruction. But words can lead to or provide the justification for violence, and violence can provide a rationale for hateful speech and narrow-mindedness. I ended up wanting to put both women on a desert island somewhere, because the absolutism of both terrified me. That testifies to the success of this book, despite its inevitable limitations and occasional structural awkwardness. Reviewers who find it biased are, I fear, basing their views more on what they wanted Scroggins to say -- to canonize Ayaan while despising Siddiqui -- whereas what the author actually did was to submit both women's lives to the same kind of analysts. The result isn't perfect, but Scroggins brings no agenda to it -- she's no relativist arguing that Siddiqui's views are rational, but she's also alert to the fact that Hirsi Ali is not some next-gen Enlightenment goddess, either. Recommended to those genuinely curious, but not to those who already have their minds firmly made up and don't want their opinions challenged. 4.4 stars.