Shania Twain Opens Up About Her Difficult Childhood, Heart-Wrenching Divorce and Finding Love Again

PHOTO: Singer Shania Twain talks about her childhood struggles and moving forward with Nightline anchor Cynthia McFadden.
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Although her songs exude passionate love, country-pop singer Shania Twain knows what it means to be heartbroken.

In an interview with "Nightline" anchor Cynthia McFadden, the famously private performer opened up about growing up hungry and poor in an abusive household, her husband's reputed affair that ended their marriage and her finding love again.

Twain, 45, who has never exposed her personal life in such a public way before, said she now wanted to "testify" to her experiences to help others. Her new memoir, "From This Moment On," is in stores now.

"I think I've remained very detached from my life to this point, almost as though it was a different person, every phrase I went through," Twain said. "So I've reconnected and said, no, this is actually who I am. I'm neither embarrassed of who I am, where I come from, what I've experienced, I'm not ashamed of it."

Growing up in the small town of Timmins, Ontario, Canada, Twain told McFadden about the years of physical abuse she said her mother Sharon endured from her stepfather Jerry Twain, the man she always called "Dad."

"[It was] overwhelming for any child to never know what to expect from one day to the next," Twain said. "It could happen anytime. But also you don't know if they're going to survive it."

Jerry Twain legally adopted Shania when she was 4. She recalled his abusing her and her mother consistently throughout her childhood, including one terrifying incident in which she watched Jerry plunge Sharon's head into the toilet.

"I thought he'd killed her," Twain said. "I really thought she was drowned, or dead, or that he had just smashed her head in and she was never going to wake up. ... She looked dead. She was unconscious, she was limp, hanging from his, you know, her, he had her hair in his hands.

"So I'd gone though the shock and experience of really believing my mother had died at that moment," she continued. "Also, through the humiliation of how I thought she had been killed, by drowning in a toilet seat. ... It was very, very obviously very hard to take."

But she said the abuse didn't stop with her mother. To this day, she said she doesn't understand why her father, a man who had taught her to be a good person, was so verbally abusive toward her.

"It was the Jekyll and Hyde in him that was the greatest torture," she said. "I loved him and I respected so much what he did for us, being the hard worker, he set a great example. So I'm still left confused. I'm baffled by all of that, I really am."

Burdened as her parents were with five kids, Twain said their arguments stemmed from their financial struggles. There often wasn't enough money to pay the rent or buy groceries, Twain said, so she repeatedly went to school hungry.

Shania Twain's new memoir, "From This Moment On," in stores now. Book cover courtesy of Pocket Books

"It's very hard to concentrate when you're stomach's rumbling," she said.

Twain said that she remembered getting jealous of the other kids' lunches but never told anyone.

"I would certainly never have humiliated myself enough to reach out and ask for help and say, You know, I'm hungry. Can I have that apple that you're not going to eat?" she said. "I didn't have the courage to do that."

Twain's challenges continued when her parents were later killed in a car accident in 1987, leaving her to raise her three younger siblings.

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