“The Moonlight School” by Suzanne Woods Fisher is historical fiction inspired by true events.
The story is set in Kentucky, USA during the early 1900’s when illiteracy and poverty were rampant among the Appalachian people living in the hills of Rowan County, Kentucky.
Cora Wilson Stewart, (1875-1958) was an actual person who was superintendent of schools in Rowan County, Kentucky in 1911.
Cora was known as “The Moonlight-School Lady” and initially her purpose was to make sure every child in those Rowan County hills received an education so they would have a chance to rise above their current circumstances of illiteracy and poverty and be able to have a brighter future.
Cora tirelessly worked to ensure every had a chance to attend school by personally seeing to it that every holler in her county had a schoolhouse and a teacher.
This was no easy task even though the Appalachian people all loved her and supported her efforts, some of the townspeople didn’t , and so she had to face many difficulties to achieve her plan of eliminating illiteracy totally.
Later on, Cora would come to realize that helping the adults to read and write would be the best way to eliminate illiteracy and poverty and so she hatched a plan to do that by starting what she called “Moonlight Schools”.
History shows that Cora’s plan was successful, as she was able to open the schoolhouses during moonlit nights to teach the adults living in the hills of Rowan County to read and write,
and as a result her “Moonlight Schools” campaign reduced illiteracy and poverty in Rowan County considerably and caused the nation as a whole to awaken to begin taking illiteracy seriously.
The fictional story that Suzanne Woods Fisher weaves around the historical facts is very realistic. The fictional characters are endearing and seem true to life.
One imagines as one reads this story that Cora did indeed have people like these characters to help her achieve her plan and purpose.
Though the main story focuses on Cora and her plan, it also is made more interesting by its revelation of each character’s personal background and story, and how Cora’s plan changed many lives for good. The reader will experience many emotional highs and lows as this story unfolds, and will see how God works things together for good in the lives of people who love and trust in Him.
There is some romance, some humor, and you will learn many new words as the author uses actual “mountain talk” throughout the story. There is also a surprise element in the story.
This story is educational, but also heartwarming, and shows what one person who is committed to a cause for a greater good can achieve with God, faith, prayer and hard work.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction based on true events.
The author also included 9 Discussion Questions at the end of the book which would be beneficial to those wanting to read and discuss this book in a Book Group or Study.
I was given a copy of this book free from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.
–Leona J. Atkinson