Shania Twain has been the only idol in my life whom I am not related to, or haven’t met and bonded with. My love and deep admiration for this fellow Canadian began at age 12. I was transfixed with her songs when I heard them for the first time. Her lyrics affected me in a way no other artist had done before, because they moved me from deep within to places of comfort and understanding, love, sadness, resilience or uplifting confidence. I can honestly say that over the years, I have reached for one or more of her albums in both happy and rough times to help with my emotions. So, it came as no surprise that when this incredible human being wrote her first book, I HAD TO read it. I always knew though that reading her book would not just be something that I would do because it was the next book on my list. I knew a special time in my life would call for a reading of her words and that special time came this Fall. For a lack of a better word, life has been ‘rough’ over the last few months and when my eyes fell on From This Moment On on my bookshelf where it had taken refuge for a few months, I knew it was time.
Before I jump into my review of her book, I have to share that I have always wanted to see Shania Twain in concert. In fact, that has been on my bucket list since I fell in love with her music. Sadly, she did not do concerts in Canada for a long time and about the Fall of last year (2015), a year when I had somehow gotten so busy with life I forgot to comb newsfeeds for any mention of her touring in Canada, there she was. Now, had I been left to my own devices, this wish would have remained on my bucket list, but that’s where God puts angels in my life, and my amazing baby sister surprised me with tickets to her last concert in Toronto. I cannot explain the emotions I went through when I opened that ticket package from Ticketmaster…my heart exploded inside my chest. I screamed. And I do NOT normally scream. Not only did I see this star of a human being in concert one unforgettable Sunday night, my baby sister (God bless her beautiful heart) bought me tickets so close that I got to touch Shania’s hand! Let me stop here with my recollections of that incredible day…my heart needs a moment to calm down.
Okay, on to her book then. From This Moment On is a painstaking re-enactment of the life that Eileen (Shania’s birth name) has lived. She goes over the most poignant events of her life with such bare-boned honesty that you can’t help but fall in love with who she is as a person. Sometimes, as fans, we admire the artist so much for their onstage persona and their music, and when we have the chance to meet them or get to know a bit about them, we are put off. Somehow the fantasy doesn’t translate to the reality. Not so with Eileen Twain. Eileen is a Canadian right down to the soles of her feet. She is unapologetic for her strong mind and unwavering in her sincerity. She loves hard and she works hard, and at a young age, even though life pushes her to the ground and gives her a good beating, she gets back up and fights for one more round. The raw emotion that seeps through this book left me gasping (literally). There were moments when the emotion was so great I had to put the book down. Perhaps because I was drawing emotional lines to my own feelings, but Eileen is able to surpass the restrictions of censorship and deliver her voice and her heart to her readers with no apologies. There is no pretense. At times it feels as if you are sitting in a Tim Horton’s coffee shop and chatting away with this deeply moving human being. Her words are laced with humour through the mess of her childhood, they are heaped with wisdom (but in a completely non-preachy and humbling-epiphany kind of way) through the heartbreak of her adolescent and young adult years. And through her wisdom and humour, she equips her reader with the ability to understand his/her own emotional intelligence through the lens of experiencing and overcoming pain.
Themes of domestic violence and physical abuse are threaded through the pages. Moments of blinding clarity offered through Eileen’s incredibly wise and forgiving heart bring into full view the messiness of our existence and how we navigate through it the best we can. Family, friendship, poverty, isolation, fear, betrayal, Indigenous relationships, and love are some of the profound concepts that feature throughout this book. Eileen does not talk down to her audience, no, she explains with enough brevity to give you an understanding of the technical elements (the music industry in Nashville, her job as a tree planter) she is narrating, but not too much as to bore you and make you feel stupid.
Eileen shares her deep connection with her family even though the various needles of life try to pick them apart from each other. She talks about her childhood winters in Canada and how her way of life did (and did not) prepare her for a life of fame and fortune. Throughout the book, her small-town humility and conservative-ness shine through. Her in-your-face honesty allows her readers to see her at her most vulnerable and know a bit more about the woman behind the sassy lyrics and skip-to-the-beat rhythm.
I fell in love with Shania Twain all over again after I read her words. I now see her, apart from her on-stage person of Shania Twain, as Eileen Twain too, a woman of undeniable courage and wisdom, a woman capable of forgiving and loving, a woman not without her own faults and insecurities, but a woman who is strong and beautiful on the inside and outside. Most of all though, this book gave me the insight into quite a few life situations that only a thing like someone else’s experience (barring your own) can equip you with. A long read at 400 pages, this is definitely worth the time. You will cry at moments and then you will find yourself chuckling in the very same breath. Such a voice as honest and vulnerable as Eileen Twain’s, I have yet to find within the pages of a book.
I shall not give this book a rating out of 5, I will say though, that if you are a fan, this is ESSENTIAL reading. And, if you are not a fan, well, you just might become one after you read this.
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