In two jewel-like novellas, Claire Messud explores isolation and the nature of love. “A Simple Tale” is the moving story of Maria Poniatowski, an aging Ukrainian woman who, after liberation from servitude to the Germans, struggles with a new life in Canada. What of the past is she able to preserve, without burdening her present? “The Hunters,” the second novella, tells the story of an American academic in London who grows obsessed with the neighbors downstairs. Loneliness breeds an active imagination, one that may be destructive.