Format Hardcover
Publication Date 05/02/23
ISBN 9781639364039
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 432

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Honeybees and Distant Thunder

A Novel

Riku Onda


"Onda's rich descriptions capture often elusive topics—music and longing—and bring the classical repertoire to vivid life." —People, BEST NEW BOOK

Tender and intense, Honeybees and Distant Thunder is the unflinching story of love, courage and rivalry as three young people come to understand what it means to truly be a friend.

In a small coastal town just a stone's throw from Tokyo, a prestigious piano competition is underway. Over the course of two feverish weeks, three students will experience some of the most joyous—and painful—moments of their lives. Though they don't know it yet, each will profoundly and unpredictably change the others, for ever.

Aya was a child prodigy who abruptly gave up performing after the death of her mother, and is now trying for a comeback; Masaru, a childhood friend of Aya who came to the piano through her insistence that he learn to play, is now reunited with her after many years, and is equally invested in both his and her success; Akashi, who is older and married, works in a music store and is the “old man” of the competitors, hoping for a final chance at success; and Jin, a sixteen-year-old prodigy, the free spirited son of a beekeeper who travels constantly, and has no formal training (and doesn’t even own a piano) yet whose mesmerizing insight into music has brought him to the attention of one of the world’s most celebrated pianists, the late Maestro Von Hoffman.

Each of them will break the rules, awe their fans and push themselves to the brink. But at what cost?

Beloved in Japan, Riku Onda immerses us in the world of music—from piano masterpieces to the buzz of bees and the rumble of thunder—which crescendos to a surprising ending in this rich and vibrant novel.

Riku Onda is a No.1 bestselling author in Japan. She grew up in Sendai and attended Waseda University, where she played the alto saxophone. In 1991, Onda won an award with her first novel, and became a full-time writer. In 2003 she moved to South America, where she reported for NHK television on Mayan and Incan culture. As her father was a music enthusiast, Onda grew up listening to classical music and played the piano from an early age, before discovering Western rock and jazz. Honeybees and Distant Thunder was the most celebrated novel of the year when it first published in Japan, winning two major literary awards: the Japan Booksellers Prize and the Naoki Prize (no other novel has won both in the same year). In 2019, it was made into a major Japanese film.

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Endorsements & Reviews

"Onda's rich descriptions capture often elusive topics—music and longing—and bring the classical repertoire to vivid life." People, BEST NEW BOOK
“Onda’s passion for music is immense and infectious, bursting out of each of her characters with their unique views of the craft. 'Honeybees' is a lovely book to get lost in because it forces you to be in the moment with the story. Onda describes the music in ethereal, pastoral scenes. 'Honeybees' is deeply moving. The now-ness of Onda’s writing left me more than once with a big, goofy grin on my face or tears on my cheeks before I could break her musical spell to stop them.”

Associated Press
"Onda’s lilting, lovely tale celebrates the classical canon and friendships that flower among competitors." Christian Science Monitor
"The vibrant intensity of the characters unfolds page by page as Onda takes her readers through the competition. Onda weaves together multiple storylines to magical effect, detailing each character’s fears and aspirations as they move through the competition. Resilience, tragedy, romance, expectations, passion and friendship echo across the interwoven narrative threads, and at every turn, Onda considers how art informs life and vice versa."

The Japan Times
"One of the most aesthetically beautiful Japanese novels you’ll ever read, Honeybees and Distant Thunder is a real masterpiece of Japanese literature."

Books and Bao
"Onda’s novel is a thrilling and often nail-biting depiction of music, friendship, and personal demons. She beautifully conveys the transcendent power of classical music in all its emotive, psychological, and visceral glory." The Observer
"A paean to the power of music, Honeybees and Distant Thunder is an inspired novel about how art transforms people, and how it is transformed by their interpretations of it. A novel that cements Riku Onda as a virtuosic talent." Foreword (star)
"Driven young people face off at a prestigious Japanese piano competition in this propulsive and poetic novel. A thrilling depiction of the power of music."

Kirkus Reviews (star)
"The tension [is] exquisitely maintained through the final note." Booklist
"A pitch-perfect, vivid masterpiece. A celebration of the love and joy inherent in the act of creating and appreciating music. Honeybees and Distant Thunder contains a warm frequency that vibrates with life and soul." Nick Bradley, author of The Cat and The City