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


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

"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, starred review
"The tension [is] exquisitely maintained through the final note." Booklist
Praise for Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight
"A Quicksilver Mystery That Flickers, Flashes, Twists And Turns. A dreamy, circuitous psychological thriller. What drives the novel is not a mounting sense of danger, but a series of wild epiphanies that fall like stones then disappear, leaving only the vague, lingering feeling that the water has been disturbed." New York Times
"Roams the existential gamut from impulses to flight to reconciliation to suicide pacts. The committed reader will admire this clinical demonstration of the workings of two mercurial personalities." Wall Street Journal
"This tour de force demonstrates how suggesting events can be so much more powerful than explicitly depicting them. Fans of psychological thrillers will be enthralled."

Publishers Weekly
“Strange, engrossing, stubbornly non-linear…” New York Times, Praise for The Aosawa Murders, Chosen as one of Most Notable Books of 2020.