The narrator of Moon Palace by Paul Auster is a man by the name of Marco Stanley Fogg. He is writing about events from his life as much as twenty years after they happened. He begins at the beginning, filling us in about details from his upbringing. His mother died when he was only a boy, and he never knew his father. Marco was raised by his Uncle Victor, who sadly passed away when Marco was in college.
Marco soon falls on hard times. Running out of money, he loses his apartment and ends up living in Central Park, New York. Thankfully, his life is saved by the good graces of his former roommate Zimmer and a young woman called Kitty Wu, who becomes his lover. Marco goes to live with Zimmer and is soon able to get his life back on track. Even so, he's not completely recovered, and his physical and mental exhaustion render him unfit for military service in Vietnam.
Marco finds employment caring for an old man in a wheelchair called Thomas Effing. Effing wants Marco to write his obituary for him, and to that end proceeds to tell him his life story. His real name is Julius Barber, and back in the day, he was a famous painter. Unfortunately, things turned sour for him, and by a strange combination of events, he ended up living in a cave out West.
It was here that he lived and painted for a while. During his stay in the cave, he killed three criminals who had murdered the former inhabitant of the cave. He stole their money and took off to start a new life with a new identity. One evening, Effing, as he now calls himself, is mysteriously attacked, leaving him paralyzed in a wheelchair. From the information provided, Effing wants Marco to work out three different obituaries.
Effing dies on May 12, the exact day that he'd predicted. He leaves Marco some money, and Marco and Kitty are able to lead a happy life in New York's Chinatown district. Unfortunately, their happiness doesn't last for very long. Marco meets Solomon Barber, Effing's son, who now works as a history professor.
Things go from bad to worse on the domestic front as Kitty wants to have an abortion. This leads to her breaking up with Marco, despite Solomon's best efforts to bring them back together again. Solomon then takes Marco on a sentimental journey out West, where they visit the graves of Marco's mother Emily and his Uncle Victor. It is during this journey that Marco realizes that Solomon is actually his father. Apparently, he had had an affair with Marco's mother when she was a student in his history class.
Solomon falls into an open grave and breaks his back. Two months later, he dies and is buried next to Marco's mother. Marco continues on with his journey, stopping by the cave once inhabited by Effing, the man he now knows was his grandfather. But the cave has now been flooded by Lake Powell, and when his inheritance from the old man gets stolen, Marco starts walking West in an act of defiance. Once he reaches the Pacific coast, he sits on the beach waiting for the full moon to rise and find her place in the darkness.