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An insightful account of a woman’s perseverance through adoption secrecy and red tape, Shadows in Paradise traces Carolann Dowding’s search for her biological family.

Despite a wholesome upbringing by her adoptive family in a beautiful Queensland, Australia, Carolann is compelled to reconcile the silences of her past. As an adult, she reconnects with her birth mother and describes the unpredictable, awkward struggles of their relationship until later in life, a truce is drawn between them.

Through her own determination, and with a boost from a private investigator, Carolann courageously pursues a trail of clues leading to her mysterious birth father, changing her life forever.

Illuminated by compassion, tragedy and gratitude which span the generations, Shadows in Paradise reveals the breadth of our need for truth and connection.


Carolann Dowding

Carolann Dowding grew up in the Redlands in the 1950s. She led a happy, privileged life until she was four, when her adoption was revealed. Over the ensuing years, curiosity about her birth family occupied a special place in her heart and in her early thirties she started a relentless search for her birth family.

Carolann’s memoir describes her childhood, documents her search and subsequent reunion with her birth mother, Edna, as an adult. Edna concealed the identity of Carolann’s birth father until the truth was revealed years later.

In later life, Carolann changed her adoptive name ‘Jean’ to her original birth name, ‘Carolann’, provoking mixed reactions from her friends and family.




ISBN 9781922120663 (PB, 236pp)
152mm x 229mm – release date 1 October 2013

AU$33 US$24 NZ$37 £16
ISBN 9781922120670 (eBk) AU$16 US$15 NZ$19 £9

"Carolann's honest, sensitive sharing of the joys and disappointments during her search for answers on her life journey will not only encourage other adoptees, but will also provide valuable information and insights for loved ones. An enjoyable, thought-provoking memoir."
– Dianne Henderson, Ph.D Soc. Sc.

"My response [to this book] could easily take up another book.

[Carolann has] done a huge amount of work, hard work. It is impressive, and I am glad the journey has brought some peace and satisfaction. What a journey. Quite powerful in places.

[Carolann] seems to have had to balance two opposites; the need for information and the truth, and the  other party's desire or need for anonymity and privacy. Not an easy juggling act. This has enlightened me about the issues of adoption. Nothing is ever simple, and each case is unique most likely. Adoption is an issue that will always be with us, and I would guess in so many cases, a fortuitous option. For many children it must be a heaven-sent passport to a life.

Thank heavens that we live now in somewhat more liberal times. Remember the cruelty of the moralising times we grew up in. The whole concept of an "illegitimate child" is surely now gone for ever. "Family values" as defined in those days when our generation was growing up were very narrow, exclusive, and punitive to anybody outside the so-called normal. We have made some progress."
- Peter Noakes, author of A Pair of Shades and a Rice Gut: A Green Enthusiast's Look at People and Cars

"Redland Bay's Carolann Dowding has written a detailed account of her search through adoption secrecy and bureaucracy for her biological family."
- Lyn Uhlmann, Southern Bay News feature article (syndicated Redland Times / Bayside Bulletin)

"This book is for everyone! What a refreshingly candid story of sheer determination to eradicate the many questions that exist as the legacy of adoption. Full of 'how to' search and reunion clues, it will inspire other truth seekers."
– Collette Glazebrook, BPsychSc Dip FP, Jigsaw Queensland

"I started reading your book on Sunday evening and finished it by Tuesday morning. Having read many biographies, few would match [this one] for a candid recounting of your feelings about the vagaries of adoption and the impact on your life. It will serve as an inspiration to other adoptees, who will have an understanding of your passionate pursuit of family, and that surely persistence pays."
- Dorothy O'Brien, reader


Interview with Redland Times featured in Southern Bay News

Carolann Dowding's Shadows in Paradise Blog

Connect with Carolann on Facebook


January 1982

I pressed my nose to the windowpane and observed the sky as it transformed into shades of orange and gold. My heart raced as shadows of the unknown beckoned me. Tonight I would cross a boundary. Tonight I would phone my birth mother.

I squinted through the glass and watched the darkness grow. Lights appeared in neighbouring houses as the blackness softened untidy grass and straggly hedges.

The season was high summer. My family had sweltered since dawn and dusk brought small relief. The broiling air was trapped in the ceiling and radiated a furnace-like invasion into the small rooms of the cottage.

I was aware only of my heartbeat as I twisted my clammy hands into contortions.

Without warning, a din echoed through the cottage. My husband glanced up at the ceiling and I realised it was only the pop and crackle of the iron roof as it retracted in the night air. I turned back to the window and pushed the frame upwards.

That night I had chosen to contact my birth mother for the first time since she relinquished me thirty-four years ago. Would I recognise her voice? Maybe. Incredible as it sounds, a foetus can hear in the womb by the second trimester.

I was aware I spent my first ten days in the Brisbane Women’s Hospital with my birth mother. Did she cuddle me, caress me and feed me? Perhaps I had repressed memories?

The bond between my birth mother and I was severed when I was two weeks old and the event would have devastated us both. Many studies have proven that babies know and recognise their mothers. Would I?

It is also acknowledged that when a baby and mother are permanently separated, the baby is traumatised. First, the foetus bonds with its mother physically, psychologically and spiritually, then the bonding continues after birth as the mother’s scent, voice and face imprint upon the child. The act of feeding (breast or bottle) enhances the intimate relationship. After the separation from my birth mother, I would have experienced abandonment, and felt it stamped on my unconscious mind forever.

My thoughts returned to the oppressive atmosphere in the cottage. The atrocious heat wave did nothing to help my anxiety. Suddenly my mind infused with a state of derealisation; my eyes were unfocused; the room’s perspective warped; my arms and legs felt like lead.

Despite the heat, our children slept. A rare but welcome puff of air ruffled the curtains and as the scent of frangipani wafted inside I visualised thousands of pink blossoms displayed in our garden and tried to focus.

The little cottage, situated on my adoptive parents’ farm, was home for my husband, John, and our three children Christopher, Lachlan and Andrew while our home was under construction. My adoptive parents, Mary and Jack Gordon, lived three kilometres away in the old Queenslander where I grew up with my adoptive brother, Ian, who still lived there with them. I had the support of a loving family all around me. Why was I doing this?

I grabbed a notepad from the coffee table and noticed my sweaty hands had dampened the paper. I stared at the phone number. John, who had promised his support, waited patiently.

Ten minutes later John walked across to the sofa and plonked himself down.
I shuffled over and sat beside him. “I’ll phone soon, but I need to calm down first,” I mumbled.


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