In The Australian Pen Pal, college English professor Rachel Monroe realizes life is about connections. Before her husband Tom’s death from cancer, he made her promise she would pursue all the goals and dreams she had left behind in her life. Knowing even in death Tom is leading her, Rachel completes her first fiction manuscript, one of the goals she had never accomplished, and finds a second career as a writer. When a publicity tour takes her from her Kansas home to several cities in Australia, she has the opportunity to find her Australian pen pal, Jenny Phillips, who had quit writing near the end of their senior year of high school. Rachel visits Coolum Beach, the oceanside town where Jenny lived most of the years the two girls corresponded. Rachel can sense a change, that Tom isn’t guiding her as he once was. She struggles with a new manuscript and reconciling her hope that somehow she’ll find Jenny.
She meets Jamie Stephens, her condo neighbor at the resort, and finds herself spending her free time with him, discussing Tom’s death and her need to find Jenny while in the midst of it trying to piece together a new manuscript. As they mold and shape their friendship, Jamie becomes intertwined with Rachel’s life. Near the end of her trip, she and Jamie travel to Brisbane to locate the address where they find out Jenny’s parents still live. Rachel isn’t prepared for the news about what happened to Jenny. In the process, she realizes that her connection to Jenny was not just about writing letters, but ultimately a guide for Rachel’s life.