ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mary Amundsen, 83, visited a friend’s lake house in October 2020, when the U.S. was creeping toward 228,000 COVID deaths and well over 8 million cases. She took her dog, Molly (a rescue and generally happy-go-lucky sweetheart).

Upon arrival, Mary learned from a friend that there had been mice in the living room. They were gone, but the scent lingered enough to terrify Molly, who had faced down larger, familiar rodents with aplomb.

“For three days, she was right beside my leg,” Amundsen said. “There was no way for me to explain to her that this was a tiny little animal.”

With a BS in nursing and an MS in counseling, Amundsen quickly drew parallels between Molly’s uncertainty about the unknown smell and her own fears of coronavirus — still a mysterious, though clearly threatening presence in her life.

"Molly's" Anxiety / contributed cover art
"Molly's" Anxiety / contributed cover art

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She wrote the script for “Molly’s Anxiety,” a short graphic novel about fear in the time of COVID-19, including coping mechanisms and resources for similarly afflicted people.

She contacted her grandchild, Micah Amundsen, with the completed manuscript. Micah, 25, previously published fantasy comic series “Cursed,” and has an LGBTQ+ supernatural webcomic, “The Roommate From Hell.”

Mary thought “Molly’s Anxiety” might fall flat without visuals, while Micah’s evocative illustrations would make it a valuable resource for children, teens and adults struggling with anxiety.

Mary has also seen an uptick in anxiety in younger generations, who have come of age while housing, jobs and their health are all scarily uncertain. She hoped that some people would use the book to recognize the symptoms of anxiety and seek treatment if other coping strategies don’t work.

Micah Amundsen (they/them) said they want the project to provide perspective on the ongoing pandemic.

“It’s such a scary, abstract, eldritch horror kind of thing,” they said. “It’s hard to conceptualize.”

And it’s unlikely to be the last pandemic, the Amundsens noted — meaning the lessons of “Molly’s Anxiety” will be useful for years to come.

Mary, Molly, and Micah Amundsen / contributed photo
Mary, Molly, and Micah Amundsen / contributed photo

Book signing

The Amundsens will sign copies of “Molly’s Anxiety” from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, Aug. 7, at Book Review, 1618 Highway 52 N., Rochester.

Books will cost $5 at the signing, or can be bought online at https://gum.co/PFLHC. Micah Amundsen will also have copies of their other graphic novels at the signing.