Rachel studies Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” in a college class in Barbara Scheiber’s book We’ll Go to Coney Island.

The characters are “all so pitiful,” she tells her professor. “As if they—as if they’re asking to be hurt. They all seem to want to be happy, but they act, well, totally without any sense.”

“But why?” the professor asks.

“They want everything to stay the same. They’re stuck in the past,” another student answers.

Chekhov invented a word to explain why these characters act as they do, the professor says.

“Nedotepa….Literally, the word means ‘botched job’—like a carpenter is clumsy, chops with a blunt hachet. Yet it means more than that….I call them ‘those who never get there.’”

At the end of the book, Rachel understands how she is nedotepa, stuck in the past, how her childhood and her family history are influencing her. And, eventually, she begins to get unstuck, to move forward, to act more sensibly and to be happier.

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