... astonishing ...The journey recalls Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, the long last ride of Addie Bundren; like Faulkner too, Khalifa employs a shifting array of voices and reflections, moving from perspective to perspective, present to past and back again. The effect is a persistent deepening, as stories are introduced and then revisited, details added through the play of memory ... The power of the novel... is that it unfolds within a human context, which pushes against and resists the prevailing social one. What other option do we have?
Mr. Khalifa skillfully condenses the trip’s detours and delays into a breakneck narrative that seems unstoppably tilted toward tragedy ... The living have the wheel in this unforgettable book, but it’s the dead—and those doing everything in their power to join them—who give the directions.
Many Western readers will find Khaled Khalifa’s new novel unbearably grim ... Death Is Hard Work moves in a way similar to the war it chronicles—mercilessly over the bones of its victims ... Frequently and without warning, the novel strays from the present-day narrative into the histories, dreams and frustrations of its central characters. The result is something at the intersection of Faulkner and Kafka, a modern-day As I Lay Dying passed through the lens of maddening bureaucracy, hypocrisy and slaughter. Readers looking for optimism or resolution need look elsewhere. Readers who want an unflinching account of one of recent history’s bloodiest civil wars will find in Khalifa’s latest work a story superficially colored by the many manifestations of death, but chiefly concerned with what a miraculous, Herculean thing it is to simply live.