"The Sacrifice of Anton Stacey" Book Review

Written by Joe Haward

Published by Encyclopocalypse Publications

Written by Christian Francis
2021, 89 pages, Fiction
Released on February 14th, 2021


Within the dialogue and drama of Plato’s Republic, a question is asked about the nature of family, not only in terms of what is said with our lips–brother, father, mother, sister, etc.–but also how we understand family in regard to the relational act or spirit. In other words, family, in its truest sense, cannot be reduced to what we call each other. Plato writes,

Shall they be a family in name only; or shall they in all their actions be true to the name? For example, in the use of the word 'father,' would the care of a father be implied and the filial reverence and duty and obedience to him which the law commands; and is the violator of these duties to be regarded as an impious and unrighteous person who is not likely to receive much good either at the hands of God or of man?

In The Sacrifice of Anton Stacey, Christian Francis beautifully and terrifyingly pulls back the curtain upon the very idea of family, particularly the relationship between fathers and sons, and examines the power and pain of those connections. The story grows and develops in ways that will surprise the reader, yet are wholly in keeping with the characters and the complexities of the relationships they inhabit. Plato’s question, “...shall they in all their actions be true to the name?” simmers under every line in this story.

Set within a small mining community at the bottom of the Appalachian Mountains, we meet the Stacey family, consisting of the youngest brother, Anton; then Jacob, the eldest; and their father, Pastor Henry Stacey.

Pastor to the small town of Folksville, Henry Stacey “...saw the fire and brimstone style of the God of the Old Testament as the true and only deity in the heavens.” The wrath and fury he sees in God is transferred onto the relationship he has with his sons. Never a father, always “the Pastor,” both boys grew up without any affection, their father’s role “...only to teach them the one truth about his God, no matter how hateful and damning.”

For the eldest, Jacob, his father’s words and theology ring true, illuminating the way of the world, influencing and carving his own path and future as he follows in his father’s footsteps. For the youngest, Anton, life is far more complicated. His own inner world is entirely at odds with the teachings and beliefs that have infused every part of the Stacey home, and it is that conflict that leads to a catastrophic fallout, changing the family forever.

Christian Francis does a wonderful job building a story around a family where the pursuit of belief over all other things determines what is even meant by the word ‘family.’ Indeed, such is the compelling nature of this idea, that when the story changes direction, it catches you completely off guard. And yet Francis also manages to hold the complexities and trauma that exists between father and sons front and center. Other events flood in upon the small town of Folksville, but the Stacey family story is never lost within those unfolding happenings. The Sacrifice of Anton Stacey works so well precisely because of this.

Human relationships and longings, alongside the terror many people feel within, weave their way throughout the narrative, but there is also plenty of shock and gore splattered across the pages. Francis delivers some wonderful shock moments, fantastically visceral in their brutality. These scenes, however, are not there simply to turn stomachs, but point to something deeper going on, a means to build upon the path walked by the Stacey family.

In Jacob and Anton, Francis asks some absorbing questions as to our influence upon the world, and how our lives and actions impact the communities we are part of. Not only that, but The Sacrifice of Anton Stacey also wrestles with ideas around belief, and whether or not those beliefs make any difference to the shape and future of the world. In every way Francis handles such searching concepts with a lightness of touch, his gift as a storyteller always winning through.

This is my first time reading something by Christian Francis, and The Sacrifice of Anton Stacey will certainly not be the last.


Overall: 4 Star Rating Cover
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