Publication Date: May 2, 2023
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.
A prestigious concert piano competition comes to life as students of diverse backgrounds push themselves to the limit.
With 13 judges from around the world, the competition unfolds. These pianists are among the best of the best, having perfected the necessary technical skills. The goal of the competition is to find those who can take it to the next level.
Akashi, the oldest competitor at 28, delivers a refreshing palette cleanser that conveys the depth of his talent to his wife in the audience. Aya stopped performing after the death of her mother and is seeking a comeback. Masaru brings forth a multi-faceted set of talents that combine for an electrifying performance. Then there is 16-year-old Jin Kazama, the son of a beekeeper with no formal training. His inexplicable gift for music rocks the competition.
After three feverish rounds, the storyline focuses on the final competition. Music serves as a universal language, uniting the top six who represent four different countries. The end result, while surprising, neatly ties up loose ends.
Honeybees and Distant Thunder takes music and converts it into emotions and experiences in the hands of talented concert pianists vying for a coveted title.
Riku Onda (Japanese name: 恩田 陸), born in 1964, is the professional name of Nanae Kumagai. She has been writing fiction since 1991 and has won the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers, the Japan Booksellers’ Award, the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel for The Aosawa Murders, the Yamamoto Shūgorō Prize, and the Naoki Prize. Her work has been adapted for film and television. The Aosawa Murders was her first crime novel and the first time she was translated into English. It was selected by The New York Times as a Notable Book of 2020.