AWARD-winning writer Nikki Alfar masterfully fuses mystery and magic in her first volume of short stories, “Now, Then, and Elsewhen,” which bears her trademark speculative style.

The anthology begins with Now, which features stories set in the present time. One remarkable tale, “When We Were Witches,” highlights childhood's fascination with witchcraft. It’s about two young girls’ common interest in witchcraft and how it makes them closer.

Then, set in the past, is composed of stories drawn from Philippine folklore. “Bearing Fruit,” about the peculiar experiences of a young girl and her quest to find the owner of the mango tree which bore the fruit which impregnated her.

The third part, Elsewhen, consists of stories about parallel universe and happenings.

All in a good blend

Alfar’s book is noted for its witty tales, but it may have its limitations, perhaps due to their fantasy and their testing the limits of one's willing suspension of disbelief.

Perhaps the best quality of the anthology is its ability to keep the readers hungry for more, making them continue reading and finish the stories and see how every story connect to one another through common themes and tones.

Despite the eccentricities of the bizarre genre, Alfar never fails to incorporate the reality of human emotions in her work. As the narrator says in “When We Were Witches”: “I can only hope that she’s managed to pick herself up, and try to be there for her, in case she falls—even from this distance of thousands of miles and twenty-eight years apart.” Josef Brian M. Ramil

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