Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 446
In Bailey's Cafe, Gloria Naylor writes about a cafe that doesn't exist in any one physical location and a boarding house where people go to heal from past trauma. She uses the personal histories of the people in the book to show how trauma can occur and how a peaceful and accepting place can help them heal from those past traumas. Even if people aren't fully able to heal immediately, the cafe and the boarding house create an environment where lost people can take a deep breath and begin to recover.
You can't reach Eve's boarding house unless you go through Bailey's Cafe. Bailey's Cafe, in turn, can be found via Gabe's pawnshop where a sign that always says the shop is closed directs people to the cafe. These waypoints represent the steps that a person has to take to heal from trauma. You have to decide to heal; you have to take the steps to get better because the world isn't going to take them for you.
One example of this is Sadie, who Bailey wants to send to Eve's. However, she never asks the right questions, and therefore Bailey is unable to send her there. Though Bailey wants to send her there, he knows that she has to be the one that looks for it. She isn't ready yet for what can happen for her at Eve's.
Even the characters who run the cafe and boarding house have past trauma. Eve was mentally abused by her preacher godfather; Bailey fought in the war and hated its effects on people. They both work through the trauma and help others go through different but still devastating traumas. The entire community works together to provide each other with respect, peace, and love.
Even though people have to follow the steps to get to Eve's, there is one point at which those steps are broken. When Mariam, a pregnant child who was genitally mutilated and never had sex—but is still physically pregnant—shows up at Gabe's after being kicked out of her village, he takes her to Eve. Because her trauma is so great, she needs extra help to move her to a place where she can heal. Another thing that affects this departure from the metaphor may also be that she's a child herself.
Reaching Bailey's and Eve's doesn't mean that you have to stay there forever. This is shown when Mary's father comes to find her and Eve tells him to leave her alone. But Eve also says she'll return Mary to him whole, later. So Naylor shows that there's a chance to heal from trauma and move on with your life, even from Bailey's.
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