Written by By Stephanie Horowitz, CNN
Strange things happen when you arrive at a library and tell the librarian you’re an author.
A former Pennsylvania resident returned a book more than 100 years later because the content was unsettling.
It all began when Mary Ann Radian sent a letter to the library of the Brown County State College — now known as Northern Arizona University — in 1956 detailing an experience she had while studying in New Mexico.
Radian tells CNN that she was driving on an unpaved road in Texas, where she was visiting family when a car struck her head-on, killing her mother and two sisters. She said she narrowly survived because she had split from her friends as they went for help.
From there, Radian said she lost the will to live. But that changed when she returned to the same road, and she recalled a blue book she read for some reason while in town. The book was filled with salacious content.
“I read one page and I was convinced it was meant for me,” Radian said. “I knew that was the one book I should read and that I would forget about the rest.”
Mary Ann Radian
Radian, then just 28 years old, married in 1957, bought a house, and decided to become a writer. She lived a few miles away from the state college until her death in 2007.
The book was a copy of the short story collection “Journey of the Arrow” that Radian’s great-grandfather had sent to his friend after reading it when he was stationed in New Mexico.
Two weeks after Radian sent the letter, her family friend visited the college and delivered a return address to the library with a request: take it, read it, and send back the rest. The book “had a very creepy and dark undercurrent,” said Jackie Hayashi, a collections assistant and archivist at the library.
“And we were stunned that someone would do that,” she said.
After several unsuccessful tries to find the person whose letter brought Radian to the library, Brown County state officials contacted the publisher of the book, where Radian’s story appeared in a back issue that she actually printed out for the library.
Radian’s great-grandfather is thought to have been the second person to have read the book to that point. Hayashi said the person she believes read the book anonymously to another unidentified person, which was what the publisher told her, except for one condition: it was never to be published.
“I didn’t know if we’d ever meet the authors,” Hayashi said.
Radian also didn’t know who the anonymous writer was, but thanks to Hayashi’s persistence and a little time, she did know.
Michael W. Hayashi, Jackie’s husband and the library’s keeper of legacy collections, found the writing of the author on the book and sent it back to Radian, with a handwritten note on the back: “To Mary Ann Radian, with appreciation for your act of kindness. Have a good one!”
Radian said she felt a great sense of gratitude and told her husband that she believed the author was an angel and asked him to take the book back to the author.
“My husband called me up and he said, ‘Mary Ann Radian, she’s waiting for you at the front door’,” Radian said.
Later that day, she said she met the author, who was “very sweet and warm” and gave her a signed copy of the book.
Radian told CNN that the author’s granddaughter was at the library one day and helped her and Hayashi bring the book back to the author.
Radian, 82, said she thinks her story makes it all worth it.
“It will have a permanent legacy, I’ll go down in history,” she said.
Hayashi said the library has had books in its collection that have previously been anonymously returned. But she said this is the first time, as a higher authority, she’s received a note that referenced the book as the one Radian found.