The narrator of Sunnyside Plaza is 19-year-old Sally Miyake. She lives at Sunnyside Plaza, a group home for people with developmental disabilities. Sal has trouble understanding some things, but she has many gifts. “I can’t read,” she explains, “but I see, I hear, and I notice things.” When two residents of Sunnyside Plaza mysteriously die, Sal uses her powers of observation to help detectives solve the case.
Author Scott Simon says he was inspired by his time working at a group home in Chicago when he was in college. But Simon told TFK it was important to him to tell the story from the viewpoint of a resident of the home rather than that of someone who visits or works there. “The idea of novels is empathy, isn’t it?” he says. “You cast yourself into another skin, another mind and heart.”