Catching Babies was conceived, author J.D. Kleinke explains in his introduction, as a "nonfiction exposé of the messy, and often fierce, technical, moral, and cultural conflicts at the heart of high-risk obstetric medicine and women's health." That project morphed into a novel that draws on real case studies to explore the personal and professional lives of a group of OB/GYNs as they finish their residencies and embark on careers in medicine.

Given that Kleinke's project is essentially didactic in nature, Catching Babies is more compelling than it has any right to be. Soapy interpersonal affairs are intelligently grounded in the realities of the medical profession (including some pretty damn gory surgery scenes), and a range of perspectives is presented with insight and authority, from women desperate to get pregnant to a Catholic doctor struggling with his feelings about abortion, to a doctor who works to improve her hospital's relationship with midwives. A careful picture emerges of overworked doctors and the personal, emotional, and professional toll their profession exacts.

The book's got more typos than it should—the publisher promises they'll be fixed in an upcoming edition—and in juggling so many characters, it leaves a narrative thread or two unresolved. Otherwise, though, Catching Babies is an entertaining, enlightening read. (A word of warning: If you're pregnant and squeamish, you might not want to pick it up until that baby's born safe and sound.)